At the Precipice of the Unknown: VUSM Alumni share their memories from past Match Days!
by Emma Mattson
Michael Young started looking forward to Match Day before he even entered medical school.
As a college student, Young (VUSM Class of 2009) watched a recording of Vanderbilt’s Match Day. Even then, he sensed the excitement of the event and wondered what his own Match Day would be like.
The event certainly merits the hype, especially since Vanderbilt commemorates Match Day differently than most medical schools do. Students do have the option to receive their residency placements privately, but most choose to participate in the community celebration, opening their placement letters on stage in front of a crowd of faculty, family, and friends.
“You get to see the fruits of all of the work you’ve put in over the last four years of med school and all the years of your life that led to this point,” Mitch Odom (VUSM Class of 2015) said. “It’s this huge build-up and amazing culmination of all of your work.”
Or, as Young put it, “you’re standing at the precipice of the unknown.”
More than fifteen years after her own Match Day, Dana Verner (Class of 2004) runs a family psychiatry practice in Green Hills, but she still fondly remembers Vanderbilt’s quirky Match Day traditions, like the fishbowl students drop money into. The last student called to the stage to open their envelope takes home the total prize.
“That seems very fair to me now, looking back, because it was torture to have to wait,” Verner said. “That last person at least got the consolation of the fishbowl prize.”
Despite the stress of the residency placement processes, Verner advises current students not to let worries overwhelm them.
“Vanderbilt does such a good job preparing us as medical students. We are strong applicants to all the residency programs,” Verner said. Even if you don’t match with your first-choice, “you may actually discover there’s a reason that you matched there, and it might be better than what you thought would be the best program for you,” she added.
The residency match process may be serious, but that doesn’t mean our medical students don’t know how to have fun. Young, now a professor at Dartmouth’s Geisel School of Medicine, recalls a practical joke his friends played on him at his own Match Day. When he opened his envelope on stage, he received quite a surprise.
“It said that I had matched at the Shade Tree Clinic,” Young remembers, adding, “I was so confused at first because it didn’t look official at all, very unofficial. And then I heard people cracking up in the back.”
Young’s real letter, announcing his residency placement at Vanderbilt, was waiting right behind the prank one.
Despite the fun, Young remembers the event as bittersweet, especially since it was one of the last times his class would gather together before graduation.
“These are people that I spent more time with than I had with my own family members or my significant other, so we were each other’s family,” Young said. “Watching them go off in different directions also made [me] feel sad.”
Young would spend the next few years at Vanderbilt, where he and his wife both completed their residencies, but his friends spread all over the country to places like Providence, San Francisco, and Chicago.
Still, treasured Match Day memories like these show that, no matter how far they might travel for residency, our students will always belong to the Vanderbilt community.