Nationally, a record number of seniors make the grade; for two Yale students, it’s on to Hopkins and UCSF.

By 11:30 a.m. on March 21, students were gathering in the Marigolds dining hall to wait for the doors to the Harkness Lounge to open. As the crowd grew it was seized by the giddiness that often accompanies high anxiety. This was, of course, Match Day, and in a few minutes the 109 students, along with 14,227 others around the country, would open the letters that would determine the course of their medical careers.

Jordan Prutkin, one of the first to arrive, appeared sanguine. “I think I matched at one of my top three or four choices and I would be happy at any of them,” he said. “But talk to me in 25 minutes.” What Prutkin couldn’t know at that time was that he had good reason to be calm. Not only did he fare well but 2002 was the best year ever for medical school seniors, according to the National Resident Matching Program—94.1 percent matched, up from 93.7 percent last year.

The Office of Student Affairs tried to reduce the anxiety with a new system for getting the letters to their recipients. In years past Nancy R. Angoff, M.P.H. ’81, M.D. ’90, HS ’93, associate dean for student affairs, and Cynthia Andrien, M.S., assistant dean for student affairs, trekked through the milling crowd, smiles on their faces and letters in their hands, closeted themselves in the mail room, inserted letters in boxes, then opened the door to the waiting throng. No more.

“The anxiety was just too much, with some people trying to get into the mail room and others not being able to get out,” Angoff said.

This year the letters were divided into alphabetical groupings and were waiting at tables in the lounge. Students appeared to welcome the new system. “I thought it gave us enough space,” Anna Gibb Hallemeier said. “You hear screams, but it isn’t in your face.”

Indeed, screams and squeals of joy filled the room as students learned their fates.

Outside the lounge, Prutkin sat with his classmate Jennifer Wang, a good friend since they met at Yale College nine years ago. Prutkin is headed for Johns Hopkins Hospital—his first choice—and a residency in internal medicine. Wang’s match will take her to the University of California-San Francisco for general surgery.

“Since freshman year of college we’ve been friends,” Prutkin said. “Now we’re on opposite coasts.”

“I’ll be sure to call you at 11 p.m. my time,” Wang joked.

With 109 students involved, this year’s match was larger than usual—many of those in the Class of 2001 took a fifth year, while most of the students in the Class of 2002 finished their studies in four years. More than half the Yale students chose a generalist discipline: 26 percent went into internal medicine, another 6 percent chose internal medicine/primary, 6 percent opted for family practice and 14 percent chose some form of pediatrics.