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    'Match Day' is a wonder for USF medical students

    Hoping for the residency of their dreams, some get their first choice, others don't.

    [Times photo: John Pendygraft]
    Buffie Reid clutches her good-news envelope and her fiance, Kayne Grau, after learning Thursday that she got her first choice for her medical residency, the Medical College of Virginia.

    By BABITA PERSAUD, Times Staff Writer
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published March 22, 2002

    TAMPA -- It was "Match Day" Thursday, the annual rite at which medical students nationwide -- including 103 at the University of South Florida -- are told where they will do their residency.

    It is a day to rejoice.

    Or not.

    USF student John Vadaparampil, 24, from Miami, learned Thursday that he didn't get his first choice. Or his second. He is heading to the Unversity of Kansas, his 12th choice.

    But he made himself happy, anyway.

    "It's the last place, the cut-off of where I'd be happy," Vadaparampil said.

    At times, Match Day felt like a frat party. Beer spilled from the hands of surgeons-to-be. Kamal Massis, who learned he is headed to the Mayo Graduate School of Medicine in Jacksonville, wore a T-shirt that read, "For good luck rub my tummy." He belly-slammed classmates as names were called.

    The students' futures were contained within nondescript, beige envelopes guarded by Dr. Steven Specter, the associate dean of student affairs at USF's Medical School.

    "I've got an envelope here that will determine the rest of your life," Specter said.

    Names were called one by one. Squeals followed. Moms aimed cameras. Hands were held over fast-beating hearts.

    "Susan McFarland. Pediatrics, Johns Hopkins Hospital."

    "Ryan Mott. Pathology, Duke University Medical Center."

    Most USF grads received their first choice. Thirty percent are staying in the area, including Brian Fordham, future anesthesiologist.

    "My fiancee is an attorney here, and I didn't want to relocate because she would have to retake the bar," he said.

    The students were matched through the National Residency Matching Program, which was established in 1952. It's a simple process: Schools rank their picks; Students rank theirs. Computers make the final decision.

    Held the third Thursday of every March, "Match Day" is a medical school tradition nationwide. A total of 23,459 students experienced the anxiety Thursday.

    They graduate in April.

    Then "in a month we will be doctors," Jason Mensch said. "People will be calling us in the middle of the night."

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