On March 19, after a challenging COVID-19 pandemic year, graduating Harvard Medical School students gathered online for the second year in a row to find out—and celebrate—where they will spend the next phase of their medical training.
“Since you successfully navigated through this last year of your MD schooling in the midst of a global pandemic that upended your final semester, you are very well-prepared for anything the next phase of your medical careers have in store for you,” said Dean George Q. Daley as he congratulated the students.
The Class of 2021 will begin their residencies this summer with the landscape of their profession altered by the pandemic, but they succeeded in adapting to the past year’s changes, which included a halt to their clinical rotations last spring.
“I just want to say how very proud we are of all of you,” said Sarah Fazio, HMS advisory dean and director of the Walter Bradford Cannon Society. “This was perhaps one of the most difficult years. Ever. And you persevered, and you should be so proud of your accomplishments.”
When the students were allowed to return to campus last summer, hospital protocols had radically changed. Telemedicine visits and consults had become more common. Even their interviews for residency went virtual. And for the second year, Harvard Commencement and HMS Class Day ceremonies will be held virtually in May.
But on Match Day, the soon-to-be grads celebrated their accomplishments and looked to the future, joined by more than 300 classmates, faculty, staff, and loved ones on a cheerful video call.
Fidencio Saldaña, HMS dean for students, remarked that the students and the resilience they showed just getting through the challenging past year “bring us incredible hope.” He said the students’ impressive actions to advocate for vulnerable groups, and their dedication to the profession, made the faculty proud and humbled.
Soon after ringing the bell at noon, signaling students that they could check their emails from the Match to learn where their residencies would be, Saldaña began calling on students to share their good news.
A chorus of “Woo-hoo!” and “Congratulations!” from faculty members was followed by students announcing their matches. They appeared on screen waving “I Matched” signs and wearing crimson HMS Match Day 2021 T-shirts, many with groups of loved ones by their sides.
Student Corbin Ester was the first to chime in, saying he had matched in diagnostic radiology at Duke University.
“I’m going into internal medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and I’m extremely excited,” said Abby Schiff.
Allen Zhou and Varnel Antoine learned of their matches together. Zhou will be at Mass Eye and Ear in otolaryngology and Antoine matched at Brigham and Women’s in urology.
“I’m going to the Naval Medical Center San Diego for OB/GYN,” said Sonya Ye.
“I matched into family medicine at BMC [Boston Medical Center],” said Katherine McDaniel. “I’m so excited.”
“This is one of the most memorable days in medical school,” said Edward Hundert, HMS dean for medical education, as he congratulated the future physicians. “You are going to do great things for your individual patients, for your community, and for the future of medicine.”
Class co-moderators Troy Amen and Vartan Pahalyants both thanked their families and friends for the love and support they received during medical school, and for celebrating their Matches with them. They expressed appreciation on behalf of the class to the School’s faculty and staff, acknowledging their support.
“I want to thank the deans for being the incredible leaders we needed during this global pandemic; for sacrificing time with your families to do daily Zoom calls with us,” said Amen, who matched in orthopedics at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York.
Vartan Pahalyants, who matched in dermatology at New York University, thanked the HMS faculty and staff for their hard work since the day “we first matriculated here to make sure we got to this day.”
Breaking it down
This year, 151 HMS students matched in clinical training, internships, or residency programs, with 70 of those students placing at an HMS-affiliated program. Two students matched in oral and maxillofacial surgery programs, and six will pursue nonclinical training.
Of the students who placed in clinical programs, 70 students, or 46 percent, will pursue fields related to primary care: 6 in family medicine; 45 in internal medicine, four of whom are entering primary care-specific residencies; 10 in pediatrics, 2 in medicine/pediatrics, and 7 in OB/GYN.
Specialty care fields students are entering include emergency medicine, anesthesia, dermatology, psychiatry, radiation oncology, general surgery, various surgical specialties, and more.
Following the all-class celebration, a dozen separate online gatherings allowed students to mingle with others in their individual academic societies, preclinical experiences, or other smaller groups, such as those who have completed an MD/PhD.
Daley wished the students all the best in the next phase of the medical careers.
“You will land exactly where you are supposed to be and will make a mark that will make Harvard Medical School proud,” he said.