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    Future doctors meet their match

    USF medical students learn where they will spend the next three to six years in training, or residency. An elated 60 percent got their first choice.

    [Times photos: John Pendygraft]
    Kanchan Kamath, 38, a student at the University of South Florida College of Medicine, reacts Thursday after opening her National Resident Matching Program letter and learning she will be doing her internal medicine residency at USF.


    © St. Petersburg Times, published March 23, 2001

    TAMPA -- Ninety medical school students gathered at Skipper's Smokehouse on Thursday afternoon, poised to celebrate or commiserate.

    USF medical student Lynn Le celebrates the news Thursday that she will conduct her residency in family practice at Florida Hospital in Orlando.
    It was Match Day. At medical schools across the country, members of this year's class met to find out where each of them would spend the next three to six years in training, a period known as a residency.

    At Skipper's, future doctors from the College of Medicine at the University of South Florida would be called up to the stage one by one.

    A professor would hand them a sealed envelope with their name on it. Inside was their fate, the result of grades and interviews measured against those of competitors, all crunched by a computer into a single sentence that would prompt cheers or tears.

    Would they get their first choice or their 15th? Would the three couples in this class move on together or be separated?

    "I'm so nervous," said Kanchan Kamath, 38, a wife and mother of two. "I can't eat anything. I wish they'd tell you ahead of time so we could all relax and enjoy this."

    Kamath had more at stake than many of her still-single fellow students.

    If she got her first choice -- staying at USF -- her two children could stay in their schools with their friends. Her husband, a civil engineer, wouldn't have to look for another job.

    Choice No. 2 was Orlando. That would mean her family wouldn't be uprooted, but Kamath would face a commute of 90 minutes or more each way, each day.

    "I'm really worried about that," she said.

    She didn't want to even think about Jacksonville, her third choice.

    Despite the nervousness, most of the students regarded Match Day as a time to celebrate. They brought their families, their children and their cameras. It was a bigger event than graduation, said Martin Silbiger, former dean of the college and now a professor of radiology.

    "I don't remember my graduation. I remember my match," he said.

    Typically, about one-third of each class chooses to remain at USF for further study. The rest of this year's class went all over the country, from the University of California at San Diego to Harvard University in Boston.

    Of the 54 men and 36 women in this year's USF class, 20 chose internal medicine and 10 chose family practice. Sixty percent got their top choice for a residency.

    Including Kamath.

    "I'm relieved," she said afterward. "The kids are really happy. I can eat now."

    Her parents were there from India. They had worried when she started medical school that her studies would keep her from taking care of her family. So had she.

    But her oldest child, 15-year-old daughter Priyanka, now thinks she might want to go into medicine, too.

    As for her parents, "They're quite proud of me," she said.

    -- Linda Gibson can be reached at (813) 226-3382 or

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