SA Express-News: Anxious medical students discover their futures in an envelope

This story was published March 16 in the San Antonio Express-News.

By Silvia Foster-Frau

At 10:30 a.m. in Helotes’ iconic dance hall, the John T. Floore Country Store, about 220 medical students and their families trembled in anticipation of 11 a.m.

“Very few professions have one time on one day in which the rest of their life is defined,” said Dr. Robert Hromas, dean of the Long School of Medicine at UT Health San Antonio.

Sleep deprived and anxious, students joined others across the country participating in Match Day, a nationwide ceremony in which medical students in their last year of school learn of their residency by opening up envelopes with their placement on stage, in front of an audience.

“I’d say I have some positive, nervous energy,” said Jason John, 27, who studied internal medicine.

When 11 a.m. hit, the buzzing swelled as Hromas and UT Health San Antonio President William Henrich gave introductory remarks and began the match-making: randomly selected students were called to the stage to discover and immediately announce — through the ripping of an envelope in front of a microphone — where they were picked for their residency programs.

The cheers grew louder as the excitement built with each new match. By the end, people in the audience of about 800 were on their feet, jumping in the air for their family and peers.

“I’m going to UT Houston!” yelled Raehannah Jamshidi, screaming the word “Houston” into the microphone as tears slid down her face.

About half will do their residencies in Texas, the other half will be traveling out-of-state, Hromas said.

Statewide, the demand for primary care physicians is only growing, said Marcia Collins, director of the Texas Medical Association’s medical education department.

“We really need physicians in many specialties in Texas because of our explosion of population growth — and just the makeup of our population. We have a lot of young, and a lot of old,” she said.

Since 2016, Collins said three new medical institutions have opened and begun accepting students in Texas: UT Austin’s Dell Medical School, UT Rio Grande Valley’s School of Medicine, and the University of Incarnate Word’s School of Osteopathic Medicine. She said the association is anticipating a scarcity of residency positions for graduating medical students in the future.

The matching of residency programs is already high stakes, she said.

“For many it is the end point, it is what you’re going to do for the rest of your career,” Collins said.

Lauren Kraut, 26, burst into tears when she opened her envelope, so much so she doubled over crying in front of the microphone. She barely spouted the name of her residency — UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas — before clambering off stage in shock.

“Sorry I’m shaking,” she said as she attempted to lift up a small dot sticker from the hands of Vanessa Torres, who works in admissions.

“Everyone’s been saying that,” Torres said. She was handing out stickers so medical students could place a dot on a large map of the United States, indicating where they would be moving for the next chapter of their lives.

Before Lauren could reach the map, her mother, Nancy Kraut, wrapped her arms around her daughter.

“It was her first choice,” she said, shaking herself.

“I can’t believe it. I have to look at it multiple times,” Lauren Kraut said, pulling away from her mother to look. “That’s what it says, right?”

She took another moment to wipe her eyes before whispering: “This is the biggest day in my entire life.”

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