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Virtual Match Day 2020

Much of the world and the economy had ground to a halt, and the state of Connecticut had banned gatherings of more than 50 people, but Yale School of Medicine’s (YSM’s) fourth year student leadership and the medical education administration didn’t want to let that stop Match Day.

An event of great emotional significance, Match Day is the ceremony at which medical students learn of their “match” with the residency program at which they will continue their education as physicians and clinical experts.

“Our first fallback plan was to break into smaller groups based on our starting class year and limit the event to students and significant others,” said Arash Fereydooni, Class of 2020 co-president, who matched in Vascular Surgery at Stanford University. “With the crisis moving so fast, our plan didn’t last long.”

As the World Health Organization (WHO) declared a pandemic, and the situation worsened in New York City and Connecticut, Match Day was to become an individual affair, with the YSM Office of Student Affairs planning to send email with the match information to each student in the privacy of their homes, in lieu of the Office handing out letters to everyone, all together, at the traditional Match Day Ceremony. “The situation evolved rapidly, and we quickly realized that we could not be in a position of planning events where our classmates got together in person, even in small groups,” said Tess O’Meara, the other Class of 2020 co-president, who matched in Internal Medicine at Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston, Mass. “The fact that this is a human health crisis made this decision even clearer; we felt a particular responsibility to uphold strict social distancing as medical professionals.”

O’Meara and Fereydooni worked with the administration to come up with a novel alternative: to host Match Day on Zoom. Students were encouraged to hold up where they matched on screen during a one-hour session that began at 12:30 p.m. ET. Many Zoomed into the event, while others broadcast the event on other social media accounts including Facebook and Instagram.

One of their classmates, Patricia Valda Toro, had the idea to hold another Zoom session in the evening, where everyone could share a celebratory beverage, as raising a glass together is a time honored post-Match YSM tradition.

“We didn’t want anyone to do Match Day alone, it’s such an emotional experience,” Valda Toro said.

Valda Toro, who matched in Internal Medicine at University of California, San Francisco, said that she was happy she and her classmates were able to have a good time among friends in spite of the challenging setting.

Nancy Angoff, MD ’90, MPH ’81, MEd, professor of medicine and associate dean for student affairs, said that in spite of the unique circumstances, the day was a success. “We did great in the match—everyone who wanted to match did,” Angoff said. Most of the top residency programs were heavily represented among the soon-to-be graduates.

Angoff credited the idea for the virtual event to O’Meara and Fereydooni, adding that although the disruption of the tradition was bitterly felt by the students, they were turning it into a positive end—specifically, in using funds usually allocated to graduation events to buy very needed N95 respirator masks and personal protective equipment (PPE) to donate to the hospital.

O’Meara agreed. “Coronavirus has been an extremely frightening occurrence for so many people, our classmates included. While we were sad not to gather as a group one last time, this has reinvigorated many of us as we look forward to the next chapter, and has refocused us on why we chose to go into this field in the first place.”