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'Stress-Inducing' Match Day Connects Utah Med Students With Residencies

Erik Neumann / KUER
University of Utah medical students pick up their residency assignments during 2018 'Match Day.'

For medical students all across the country, the third Friday of March is Match Day. It's when med students find out where they’ll do their residency. At the University of Utah’s Match Day around 100 medical students were eagerly waiting.

At the University of Utah stadium, the mood is electric. Everyone is dressed up. There’s lots of hugging and cameras. In front are three tables covered with red paper bags. Inside each one is a letter addressed to a different student.

One is for Azadeh Poursaid.

Credit Erik Neumann / KUER
Azadeh Poursaid sits with her family during the University of Utah Match Day.

"I am so excited. So excited. A little nervous, but mostly excited," she said. 

Poursaid is studying to become an OB/GYN. She’s been at the university for nine years and she’s about to find out where she’ll be for the next four.

Over the last winter Poursaid interviewed at nine hospitals on the West Coast, in the South and the Northeast.

"Portland would be my number one. I don’t want to jinx it. Or San Francisco or Washington D.C.," she said.

Tom Hurtado the director of student affairs at the U’s School of Medicine.

"It’s quite a stress-inducing process," he said. "What’s at stake is really their job. What they’re going to be doing and the path they take."

Last winter, when Poursaid was flying around the country, ranking hospitals she wanted to attend, the staff at those hospitals was also ranking her. Their preferences get put into a computer program that uses an algorithm that matches students to hospitals, in what is hopefully the best combination for everybody.

At the stadium at the university, the mood is tense. Everyone gathers around the tables.

Credit Erik Neumann / KUER
Bags containing residency assignments await students during the Match Day ceremony.

There’s a red streamer stretched in front. The dean of the School of Medicine waits until exactly 10 a.m., then cuts the streamer. There’s a controlled frenzy as students grab their bags and retreat to the tables with their families. And then, bursts of exclamation. 

"I got my number one!" Poursaid said. "I’m going to OHSU in Portland."

For Poursaid and future doctors everywhere, they’re one step closer to being done with a very long journey.

Erik Neumann is a radio producer and writer. A native of the Pacific Northwest, his work has appeared on public radio stations and in magazines along the West Coast. He received his Bachelor's Degree in geography from the University of Washington and a Master's in Journalism from UC Berkeley. Besides working at KUER, he enjoys being outside in just about every way possible.
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