Veronica Ramirez peeled back the envelope in her hand and learned what her fate would be for the next several years.
March 15 is Match Day, the annual event where medical students across the country simultaneously receive instructions on where to report for their residencies.
At precisely 9 a.m. — and not a minute sooner — students from the Keck School of Medicine of USC, who had gathered in the Harry and Celesta Pappas Quad, were handed their letters from the National Resident Matching Program, a nonprofit corporation that matches students with residency programs.
Shrieks and screams echoed across the quad as students learned if they were selected to work in the places they had hoped.
Ramirez got her second choice, and she smiled broadly when she discovered she would be staying in Los Angeles, close to her family in San Diego.
The 27-year-old, who is pursuing a career in primary care, will be training at Los Angeles County+USC Medical Center (LAC+USC).
“Looks like I’m staying here,” she said, beaming. “It’s going to be great. It’s an achievement I’m happy about. I’m going to be a strong primary care physician no matter where I go.”
And she’ll have plenty of company as a resident.
Overall, 16,008 U.S. seniors participated in this year’s match, 520 fewer than last year.
Donna Elliott, associate dean for Student Affairs, said the matches at the Keck School were outstanding this year, with 157 total students participating, including those who were matched in early rounds for the military, urology and ophthalmology programs.
This year, 103 students will stay in California for all or part of their training. Forty-six of them will be going with Ramirez to LAC+USC for some, or all, of their training. The rest of the students will relocate in 20 states and the District of Columbia. For the fourth year in a row, New York will receive the highest number of Keck School students.
Emergency medicine and internal medicine were the most popular programs, with 28 students each. Obstetrics and gynecology, orthopaedic surgery and radiology followed, with 11 students each.
Andrew Gausepohl, co-president of the student body at the Keck School, was thrilled that he was picked to go to his No. 1 choice, Harbor-UCLA Medical Center.
“I fell in love with the program,” said Gausepohl, whose residency will be in emergency medicine. “It’s a new program, and I feel I can make my mark there.”
Kelsey McClure will head to St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix with a residency in general surgery.
“I’m pretty excited,” she said, one arm wrapped around her fiancé and the other holding a dog’s leash. “That’s where we want to go. It’ll be hot, but I really like the program. I’m from Oregon, but the sunny side.”
Along with the celebration, though, there also was sadness. Many students knew that their time together was coming to an end.
“It’s bittersweet leaving USC and my friends,” said 27-year-old Scott Honowitz, who opted for a residency in radiology. “But other than the day I got into USC, this is the most exciting.”
For the first time this year, students were asked to stick pins in a map to show where they would be heading. By the end of the ceremony, pins were spread out across the country.
Keck School Dean Carmen A. Puliafito raised a glass of champagne to toast the students.
“I have some advice,” Puliafito said. “The two months between now and graduation should be the greatest of your life. You’re freed from some of the tremendous pressures and responsibilities of academic achievement. You can work with your friends and enjoy a tremendous sense of accomplishment. We celebrate you all here today.”
Ramirez is not worried about hard work and wants to hit the ground running. Saying she didn’t sleep much the previous night, she’s happy the nervousness of Match Day is finally behind her.
“This is the most nerve-wracking day,” she said. “It’s the culmination of the last four years and the end result of that effort and a lot of sleepless nights.”