As events were cancelled to slow the spread of COVID-19 and activities moved online, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health (UWSMPH) medical students took a moment to grieve the loss of a traditional match day and then decided to do something about it. With some creativity and technical support, more than 900 people were able to tune in to watch a livestream of students announcing their acceptances to residency programs across the country on March 20, 2020.

Match Day 2020

From left, student government leaders Tenzin Atruktsang, Melissa Ricker, Lily Turner and Jenn Mirrielees, in the command center for the UWSMPH Virtual Match Day.

Cancel or Get Creative

On March 17, gatherings of 50 or more people were banned statewide.  That’s when medical students like one of DFMCH’s newest recruits, Melissa Ricker, stepped in. She worked with student government co-leaders to create a meaningful way to support the Class of 2020 on the big day.  Sticking with a “Roaring 20s” theme, the cornerstone of the traditional event, Ricker and fellow students created a slideshow of memories featuring all of the graduates.  When the moment arrived, students made their announcements via Web Ex.  Some hunkered down with friends or family, while others accepted virtual hugs and cheers. No matter the situation, spirits were high as students learned where they would go for residency.

Matching with DFMCH

Ricker was thrilled when the time came for her big announcement. “I have loved every minute of my time at UW as a medical student, and I wanted three more years here,” said Ricker. “All of the family medicine faculty and residents have inspired me with their commitment to their patients, their enthusiasm for family medicine, and their eagerness to teach.” She was not alone in her sentiment. Estefan Beltran attended his school’s virtual match day from the shores of Lake Michigan in Chicago with his girlfriend by his side; his mother joined via FaceTime. Beltran was excited to match with his top choice. “I was so impressed by the administration of the UW program from the communication before and after the interview to the amount of information provided,” said Beltran. “You really got a sense that the program was very well run and cohesive.”

Estefan Beltran watches for his match results on his iPad from the shores of Lake Michigan.
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Choosing Family Medicine

According to the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), more than 4,300 medical students and graduates matched to family medicine residency programs in 2020.  That’s the largest number in family medicine’s history as a specialty. The choice was easy for students like Yusuf Abdullah. When his family moved to the United States in 2007, family medicine physicians found ways to connect while making his entire family feel comfortable as they addressed individual health care needs. “I wanted to pursue a career where I could do the same,” said Abdullah. “I love working with people, hearing their stories, and learning about their journeys.” When Abdullah starts his residency at DFMCH, he’ll have an opportunity to give back to a community that has given so much to him and his family. “I’m hoping to be involved in community service activities during my time with the program,” added Abdullah. “I believe that it is important to give back, and I am excited to find out how I can contribute to the community.”  Stefanie Sippl shares that passion and looks forward to continuing her training at DFMCH.  “I was drawn to family medicine because of the opportunity to form long-term relationships, serve whole families, and advocate for patients in the clinic, hospital and community,” said Sippl.  “Family medicine, to me, is about fostering connections through a broad scope of care.”

In June, the DFMCH will welcome 23 new physicians into its residency programs with 16 starting in Madison, five in Wausau, and two in Baraboo. In addition to the four graduates from UWSMPH and two from the Medical College of Wisconsin, 17 are joining us from schools in Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Colorado, Washington, Tennessee, Texas, and Washington.

Thanks to everyone at the SMPH, the DFMCH and our partner programs who worked to make this year’s match a success.

Published: April 2020