Traditionally on Match Day, crowds of medical students can be seen holding their envelopes up to the sun to sneak a peek at their match before ripping them open. But this year, future physicians sat with their eyes glued to their inboxes as their fates were delivered via email.
In the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, there’s still cause to celebrate as fourth-year McGovern Medical School students at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) learned where they will be taking the next step of their medical careers.
During Match Day, at the same time across the country through the National Resident Matching Program, medical students learned where they will train as residents in U.S. programs.
“I am incredibly proud of our students who have worked so hard to reach this milestone on their way to becoming physicians,” said Barbara J. Stoll, MD, the H. Wayne Hightower Distinguished Professor in the Medical Sciences and dean of McGovern Medical School at UTHealth. “Taking the necessary social distancing precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is just one way they are showing that they are the future heroes of health care. I’m excited for them to take all the skills they’ve learned here and put them to use as they embark on this next chapter of their journeys.”
Of the 236 graduating seniors from McGovern Medical School who participated in the National Resident Matching Program, 136 (57%) will stay in Texas for their first year of postgraduate training and 56 (24%) matched to McGovern Medical School programs. In primary care fields, where there is an acute need of physicians, 88 members (37%) matched.
Here are some of the faces of McGovern Medical School’s Class of 2020:
Daniel Castro-Alvarado’s family used to tease him about growing up to be a doctor.
Young Daniel was quite squeamish. After fainting when helping administer a shot of antibiotics to his father, he swore to never become a doctor.
The boy who was unable to give his first shot will now spend his career administering medications to patients as an anesthesiologist. He will complete his training in Dallas after matching at The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, in the Department of Anesthesiology and Pain Management.
Castro-Alvarado was studying computer science and engineering in his hometown of El Paso, but found the work lacking. On the advice of an aunt, Daniel shadowed a surgeon and discovered that the work was fascinating.
“It was a bariatric procedure, transitioning from a lap band to a gastric bypass,” he said. “The whole procedure took three hours, and I was fascinated. It went by so quickly, and I did not faint.”
Daniel participated in the Joint Admission Medical Program, where he had the opportunity to help interview the next generation of students.
“I enjoyed the interview process, getting to meet people and having interesting conversations with them,” he said. “I was able to have a say in who will become a part of the McGovern family – and that’s how McGovern feels, like a family. I met some wonderful people, and made some great friends.”
Sandra Coker has been a basketball player for years, and now she’s looking forward to joining a new team – the emergency medicine residents at the University of Chicago.
“I’m finally getting to do what I’ve dreamt about for more than 20 years – it still hasn’t sunk in yet,” Coker said.
Coker is a first-generation Nigerian-American and a Houston native. She followed social distancing guidelines and hosted a gathering of less than 10 people on Match Day to celebrate the monumental occasion, with other family and friends tuned into the party via videoconferencing.
While Coker’s Match Day celebration wasn’t what she’d initially envisioned, she was pleased with the way it turned out.
“It felt like the moment lasted a lot longer than the traditional ceremony outside with more than 200 other students because it’s easy to get lost in the crowd. This way it was controlled chaos and I could celebrate with my family and friends without as much distraction,” Coker said.
Among Coker’s digital cheerleaders were followers of her blog Black Girl, White Coat, a platform Coker uses to share information on representation, mentorship, and even scholarships to students from ethnic or racial backgrounds that are traditionally underrepresented in medicine.
“A lot of us are first in our families to pursue careers in medicine and may not have anyone who looks like us to relate to. I wanted to create a space where we could address issues and obstacles that might be uncomfortable in other settings and encourage one another,” Coker said.
Coker credits much of her professional and personal growth to her mentor Mandy J. Hill, DrPH, MPH, director of population health and associate professor of emergency medicine at McGovern Medical School.
Hill is also an advocate for minorities in health care, and she and Coker are researching ways to debunk myths about HIV, and promote sexual health among women in the African-American community.
“Sandra made a permanent and lasting impression on me. She showed me what was possible when innovation and experience align to produce research that connects with the populations we serve,” Hill said.
Born and raised in Seoul, South Korea, Ryan Kim traveled by himself to the U.S. at age 16 to attend school in Massachusetts. And now he’ll be a resident in ophthalmology at UT Southwestern in Dallas after completing his intern year in medicine at McGovern Medical School.
He received his undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering from Rice University, and he likes how ophthalmology ties together physics, engineering, and anatomy.
“I’m especially interested in the meticulous microscopic management of eye disease, both surgically and nonsurgically,” Kim said. “There’s a ton of research and innovative advancements happening in the field, and I’m excited to be a part of it."
Before attending McGovern Medical School, he completed a medical mission trip to Nicaragua.
“That trip allowed me to experience the beauty and purpose of medicine. After that, I became inspired to go into the medical field and learn how I could become a physician who can serve and make a lasting impact on the patients,” Kim said.
During his time at McGovern Medical School, Kim continued serving through volunteering with the Houston Outreach Medicine Education and Social Services (HOMES) Clinic, an interdisciplinary organization that has a student-managed medical clinic in downtown Houston that provides no-cost quality health care to patients in homeless populations.
Kim is looking forward to the next few years in Texas with his wife and two daughters.
At home with her parents by her side, Claudia Martinez, 29, quietly opened her email and found the proof she was looking for: confirmation that she could achieve her dreams, no matter what. She matched to her top choice for physical medicine and rehabilitation residency training at TIRR Memorial Hermann – the very hospital where she had been a patient.
“I believe I am the first patient of TIRR to enter the UTHealth PM&R residency program! I can’t wait to care for patients with the same physicians, physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech-language pathologists, nurses, and others who took care of me,” Martinez said.
After being diagnosed in 2011 with Chiari malformation, a condition in which a portion of the brain protrudes from the bottom of the skull compressing the brainstem, she was even more determined to earn that medical degree and white coat.
After surgery and recovery she enrolled at McGovern Medical School in 2014. But more surgeries lay ahead to treat several serious conditions, including a stroke in 2017 that initially left her unable to function from the neck down.
Martinez never gave up. Her strength and resilience inspired one of her classmates, Omar Alnatour, to start a fundraising campaign to establish the Claudia I. Martinez Strength Scholarship Endowment to recognize the accomplishments and achievements of other students at McGovern Medical School who are facing hardships in pursuit of their medical education.
“I have chosen to enter the field of physical medicine and rehabilitation, and plan to subspecialize in brain injury and stroke recovery. My PM&R doctor advocated for me, empowered me, and restored my life, and now I am going to get to do the same thing for my patients,” Martinez said.
Army 2nd Lt. Quang Gonzalez has dedicated his life to protecting and serving others. The 34-year-old spent four years active duty in the Air Force, eight years and counting in the Army Reserve, and is now a fourth-year medical school student at McGovern Medical School. He found out early through the Army match program that he’ll be continuing his mission to protect and serve through a family medicine residency program with Womack Army Medical Center, a military hospital in Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
He says it’s an honor to give back to a population that has made such big sacrifices for the sake of our freedom.
“Soldiers and their families have given up a lot of themselves to serve their country and that’s one of the most noble things you can do,” Gonzalez said. “I’m looking forward to being there for them when they need medical help and supporting them however I can.”
During Gonzalez’s final year of medical school, he balanced his studies, Army leadership training, and life as a new dad to a baby girl who was born in June. He’s looking forward to moving his wife and daughter to the Tar Heel State, where he will start residency as a captain.
Aditya Srinivasan and Tiffany Robles
The time spent at McGovern Medical School put Aditya Srinivasan and Tiffany Robles on more than just a path towards obtaining their medical degrees; it also brought the two of them together.
The couple met at a Bollywood dance class hosted by the South Asian Medical Student Association. A friendship blossomed and the two began dating during their second year.
“Having a partner who understands the highs and lows of medical school was so important,” Robles said.
During their fourth year, Srinivasan had away rotations in New York but they still made it a point to make the relationship work. He’ll be heading to The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston for a residency in urology. Srinivasan credits Robles with bringing balance to his life through such a difficult time.
Robles chose to pursue pediatrics and matched at Dell Children’s Medical Center of Central Texas in Austin. She comes from a big family with many younger cousins, so treating children is where she found her calling.
The two are looking forward to celebrating all they’ve accomplished together and taking the next step in their medical careers.
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|2020 Graduating Class Specialty Choices|
|Obstetrics & Gynecology||12|
|Surgery - General||8|
|Total Number of Students:||236|