The envelope, please! Medical students learn their futures at schools' Match Day celebrations

The envelope, please! Medical students learn their futures at schools' Match Day celebrations

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Three! Two! One! R-r-r-rip!

It felt almost like New Year’s Eve, as more than 40 fourth-year medical students – and hundreds of supporters – loudly counted down in the airy lobby of Cooper Medical School of Rowan University (CMSRU) in Camden. Instantly, the students tore open thin white envelopes that would reveal which medical residency program had accepted them – and where they’ll spend the next three to seven years, depending on their specialty.

The annual event, called Match Day, is a rite of passage for soon-to-be physicians across the nation. It’s also a first for CMSRU, as its initial class prepares to graduate.

CMSRU Match Day“It’s a huge day!” said Daniel Lefler, who doubled over with emotion after reading his match letter. The Haddonfield native was accepted to his first-choice program: an internal medicine residency at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.

“I’m getting to train at one of the best programs in the country,” said Lefler. “I couldn’t be more excited!”

Across the packed atrium, beaming students shared hugs, laughter and even a few tears with family, friends, faculty and staff. Many took turns holding up a white board showing their destinations to the cheering crowd.

Similar scenes played out simultaneously nationwide – at noon Eastern time on March 18 – as U.S. medical schools shared the results of the National Residency Matching Program (NRMP). That included Rowan’s older medical school, Stratford-based Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine (RowanSOM). Rowan is just the second institution in the nation to have both a D.O.-granting medical school (RowanSOM) and an M.D.-granting medical school (CMSRU).

Outstanding results

“Match Day is the culmination of many years of hard work for medical students across the country,” explained CMSRU Dean Paul Katz, MD. “It really is a celebration.”

Yet it’s also nerve-wracking.

“You don’t know where you’re going to end up; it’s stressful,” said Martin Weaver of Washington Township, who matched with a Miami hospital’s physical medicine and rehabilitation program.

This inaugural class “is like our first-born,” quipped Katz. “We were only slightly less anxious than they were!”

On a more serious note, he expressed pride and gratitude toward the students.

“They came to a school with no track record; they took a chance on us,” he said. “They competed for residencies against students from long-established schools, and they did very well.”

Indeed, 35,476 applicants vied for 27,860 residency positions nationwide, according to NRMP. Students spend months applying and interviewing with numerous programs. NRMP then uses a computerized algorithm to make the matches, considering the preferences of both the students and program directors.

The students’ results speak volumes: 42 were offered residencies through NRMP – many at elite institutions – with one placed previously through the military match. Over a third will stay in the Delaware Valley, including eight who matched at Cooper University Hospital. 

“I feel elated,” said Erica Schramm of Wenonah, who will train in Cooper’s emergency medicine department. “I’m really looking forward to starting here!” 

Like Lefler, half the class will enter primary-care specialties – critical areas facing doctor shortages – including internal medicine, pediatrics and family medicine.

RowanSOM students make their matches

RowanSOM Match DaySpirits were also high at the Match Day celebration for Rowan’s School of Osteopathic Medicine, which included a luncheon at The Mansion in Voorhees.

The results: 160 RowanSOM students won residency positions, including 75 who matched in February through the American Osteopathic Association (DO) match program, and four heading to military hospital programs. Nearly half the RowanSOM graduating physicians will specialize in primary care and more than 40 percent of the non-military students will stay in New Jersey. Statistics show that physicians are much more likely to practice in the state where they complete their residency.

“I am proud of their achievements,” said RowanSOM Dean Thomas Cavalieri, DO, “and look forward to their continuing success as leaders in their profession and their communities.”

Match Day caps big week in Camden

For CMSRU, Match Day topped a full week of events – from cap-and-gown fittings to seminars on successful residency training; from a bowling night to presentations of students’ capstone projects.

One particularly meaningful activity was an afternoon spent rehabbing two city homes in partnership with the Heart of Camden charity.

“It reinforces our commitment to service, to Camden and this community,” said Dean Katz.

“It gives you a perspective,” added Schramm, who painted for several hours with classmates. “It reminds you to be humble in a time when it’s easy to make this all about us.”

Preparing to launch

For most doctors, memories of Match Day will last a lifetime, noted Katz.

“So much has changed over the years, but everyone who’s gone to med school remembers three things: gross anatomy, graduation, and when you got the envelope.”

Meanwhile, as the charter class heads off to residencies both near and far, its members will help build the school’s national reputation.

“This Match Day is the start of a very special tradition,” observed Daniel Lefler, “and also the beginning of spreading the word about CMSRU from coast to coast.”