Strike the Match

UND’s graduating medical students receive their residency “match”

Holding his “Match Day” envelope in anticipation, fourth-year medical student and Colorado native Adel Mergoum sat patiently as Susan Zelewski addressed Mergoum and his fellow soon-to-be medical doctors, each on the cusp of finishing their clinical training in Grand Forks.

The waiting is the hardest part.

“This is such an exciting day,” said Zelewski, assistant dean for the School of Medicine & Health Sciences (SMHS) Northeast campus, to the group. “It has been a long road for each of you, getting to this point, but each of the faculty here are so happy to have been able to share that journey with you. Know that you all make us proud.”

And with that the students were free to tear into their letters. “Match Day” for graduating medical students is one of the most important milestones of their careers. Each year on Match Day, medical school seniors across the country learn where they will complete their residency, a period of advanced education in their chosen specialty before independent practice as a physician. Depending on the medical specialty, graduates complete anywhere from three to seven years of residency training after medical school.

And the result for the 67 members of the UND School of Medicine & Health Sciences Doctor of Medicine Class of 2018? Relief—and a few happy tears.

Hoping to be either an oncologist or hospitalist, Mergoum learned that he will soon begin an Internal Medicine residency at the SMHS Southeast campus in Fargo.

“I’m not at all shy to admit that [North Dakota] was my first choice,” he smiled after opening his Match Day letter in Grand Forks. “My family moved to Fargo from Colorado when I was younger, so this area is like home to me.”

Similar thoughts and smiles were at that moment happening across the state as fourth-year medical students opened their Match Day letters in Bismarck, Fargo, and Minot as well.

Fargo natives and identical twins Kathryn and Adria Johnson held each other on their phones as they simultaneously opened their letters in Bismarck and Fargo, respectively.

“I would say our Match Day results are awesome! I’m very excited about them,” beamed Kathryn, who is on her way to a general surgery residency at Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis.

“Absolutely. I’m very happy with my placement,” added Adria, who learned that she will be going to the Maine Medical Center in Portland, Maine, also to complete a residency in general surgery. “I went to Portland for an away rotation this fall and loved the area and the program. I’m ecstatic that Kathryn and I matched in the specialty we both love.”

While the Johnson sisters are set to begin residencies in general surgery, 17 of the 67 SMHS graduates matching this year are pursuing family medicine (25.3 percent), which is almost triple the national average of graduating medical students entering a family medicine residency.

In addition to family medicine, matches for UND medical students in the other primary care specialties include the fields of internal medicine (15), pediatrics (4), and obstetrics/ gynecology (3). This makes for a total of 39 of 67 (58.2 percent) SMHS Class of 2018 medical doctors entering primary care.

Other specialties chosen by this year’s class include diagnostic radiology, dermatology, neurology, anesthesiology, emergency medicine, psychiatry, orthopedic surgery, and otolaryngology.

One such specialist is Joley Beeler, who is entering a diagnostic radiology residency at the University of Kansas School of Medicine in Kansas City, Kan. “Kansas was in my top three choices,” said the Minot native. “My family has a background in imaging, so I’m happy I got this far with this specialty.”

Match Day is the culmination of work conducted by the National Resident Matching Program (NRMP), a private, not-for-profit corporation founded in 1952 at the request of medical students to standardize the residency selection process and establish a uniform date of appointment to positions in graduate medical education (GME) training programs. It is governed by a board of directors that includes representatives from national medical and medical education organizations as well as medical students, resident physicians, and GME program directors.

The NRMP’s 2018 Main Residency Match was the largest in history, exceeding the more than 43,000 applicants who registered for the 2017 Match and the more than 31,000 positions offered last year. Results of the Main Residency Match are closely watched because they can predict future changes in the physician workforce.

“We should have some very happy students,” concluded Joycelyn Dorscher, associate dean for Student Affairs and Admissions at the School. “This year’s class matched into some extremely competitive programs and specialties, including placements at Mayo, Tufts Medical Center in Boston, and the Yale-New Haven Hospital, among others.”

BY BRIAN JAMES SCHILL