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Matching medical students committed to cultural humility in health care

Diverse experiences prepare UMass Chan Medical School students for residencies

Sarah Ferreira matched into a medicine and pediatrics residency at Massachusetts General Hospital.

UMass Chan Medical School continues to strive to educate a medical profession that reflects the population it represents. Of the 149 students who matched into residency programs on Friday, March 17, 48 identify as students of color; 10 identify as students underrepresented in medicine.

Fourth-year T.H. Chan School of Medicine student Sarah Ferreira, who immigrated with her family from Brazil when she was 14, matched into a medicine and pediatrics residency at Massachusetts General Hospital. Ferreira said she was inspired by a health care provider who spoke Portuguese and provided care during a family emergency in Hyannis.

“I was terrified that my little brother would not receive the care he needed because my family could not clearly communicate in English,” said Ferreira, whose brother needed stitches. “Fortunately, there was a provider who was fluent in Portuguese and was able to care for my brother and our family with great kindness. That moment solidified my interest in medicine.”

Ferreira is a graduate of UMass Amherst and an alumna of the UMass Baccalaureate MD Pathway Program, which helps students from diverse and underrepresented backgrounds prepare for successful matriculation to medical school.

Classmate Vanya Zvonar, who matched in emergency medicine at The Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, grew up speaking Serbian at home. After college, she lived in Ecuador for two years, teaching English and learning Spanish. Zvonar led the medical Spanish optional enrichment elective at UMass Chan.

“We have brought together many students who are passionate about learning medical Spanish and learning about the importance of cultural humility while working with a diverse group of patients like we have here in Worcester,” Zvonar said. “The power of language and understanding a patient’s culture is huge, and it is something I really enjoy exploring, learning about and sharing with others.”

Fourth-year medical student Maimuna Ahmad spent Match Day at UMass Chan with her parents, immigrants from Bangladesh. Ahmad said her parents instilled in her the importance of working hard to achieve her dreams of becoming a doctor.

“From a young age, I was drawn to helping people, helping solve their problems and making them feel better,” she said.

Ahmad matched in otolaryngology at University of California San Francisco.

The annual nationwide residency match is organized by the National Resident Matching Program, which uses a complex algorithm to pair graduating medical students with residency programs. The matches are kept secret until noon on the third Friday in March every year. At UMass Chan, medical students opened their envelopes together during a celebration on campus.

See video of the full Match Day celebration on Facebook and YouTube.