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Drive-in Match Day a unique occasion for soon-to-be UMass Medical School grads

Socially distanced celebration allows largest-ever School of Medicine class to be together

In a modern twist on an old tradition, a drive-in Match Day event for the School of Medicine Class of 2021 was celebrated in a parking lot at UMass Medical School’s South Street campus in Shrewsbury on Friday, March 19. On a cold but brilliantly sunny day, nearly 100 graduating medical students and their families safely marked the rite of passage from their cars as they tore open envelopes to learn where they would begin their careers as doctors. Dozens of other classmates watched a livestream broadcast of the event from their homes. It is the largest-ever class for the School of Medicine, with 168 graduating students in all.

Nili Amir jumped for joy outside her car when she opened her letter from the National Residency Matching Program to learn that she is going into obstetrics & gynecology at the University of Connecticut. Melinda Futran was overjoyed to stay in Worcester, matching in pediatrics at UMass Medical School. Among those participating remotely from home, Jan Czerminski was delighted to be heading to Yale University for his radiology training.

“I am so happy to be going to Duke. On the other hand, I am very sad to be leaving my family at UMass Medical School,” said Aurian Garcia-Gonzalez, who came to Worcester from San Juan, Puerto Rico, to pursue her dreams as an MD/PhD student and matched in general surgery. She and her partner, Shaleen Shrestha, took part in the drive-in event from their red Jeep Wrangler. “I have been here for nine years. I have gotten so much support from everyone here. They are my family and this is my home.”

Match Day is the annual, nationwide pairing of graduating medical students with postgraduate residency training programs that takes place every year. The National Resident Matching Program administers the matches, which are made through a complex algorithm that incorporates the preferences of both students and residency programs following the months-long application process. While Match Day logistics and traditions vary from school to school, the NRMP requires the matches to remain secret until noon on the third Friday of March.

The scene of this year’s celebration took on the feeling of a drive-in theater, with cars parked safely distanced from one another and facing a large electronic screen and a stage. Many vehicles were decked out with balloons, signs and messages painted on windows in the colors of learning community houses.

Anne Larkin, MD, vice provost for educational affairs, and Sonia Chimienti, MD, associate dean for student affairs, conducted the proceedings from the stage. In their comments, Chancellor Michael F. Collins and Dean Terence R. Flotte spoke to the humorous as well as serious sides of becoming a doctor. They lauded the extraordinary resilience exhibited by the Class of 2021.

In addition to being the largest, the Class of 2021 also includes the first Population Urban and Rural Community Health (PURCH) program students based at UMMS-Baystate, the Medical School’s first regional campus. Reflecting the institution’s mission to train primary care physicians, 71 students matched in internal medicine, family medicine, pediatrics and obstetrics & gynecology, representing 42 percent of the class. Seventeen students are going into emergency medicine. Fulfilling the medical school’s mission to care for the citizens of the commonwealth, 86 members of the class will complete some or all of their residencies in Massachusetts, including 43 staying at UMMS campuses in Worcester and Springfield. Six students completed early matches, two in the military and four in urology.

“I have grown so much at UMass Medical School as both a man and a physician and I can’t thank everybody here enough,” said Skelly Enabulele, who matched in orthopedic surgery at Tufts Medical Center, his undergraduate alma mater. “I loved my clinical experiences and the combination of sports medicine and surgical experience made orthopedics the specialty for me.”

The full event can be viewed online on the UMMS Facebook page and YouTube page. Well-wishers and class members are encouraged to continue posting congratulations and sharing #Match2021 photos on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and tagging @UMassMedical.