UNMC returned to the traditional live Match Day on March 19, with some COVID-era adjustments that worked so well, organizers and students are considering incorporating them into the event going forward.
To adhere to COVID-19 safety protocols and still allow graduating medical students to enjoy the Match Day experience, this year's event was held outdoors at the Falconwood Park Drive-In in Bellevue.
Of course, there was one last twist: rains earlier in the week muddiedthe lots and kept the students from pulling into the drive-in in their cars, as originally planned. But attendees, organizers and the drive-in staff set up chairs so groups would be spaced apart, and attendees wore masks.
Wendy Grant, MD, was up on stage when the celebrating began.
Texts from the National Resident Matching Program (NRMP) began arriving at 10:57 a.m. -- a little earlier than the scheduled 11 a.m. Dr. Grant said it was a "joy" to watch the students get their match.
"It was fantastic that the students could be together with their families and each other to celebrate what probably is one of the biggest days in medical school -- in many ways, the biggest day of medical school," she said.
"It was so much fun," she said. "Of course, a lot of the fourth years are doing different rotations anyway, but with the pandemic, they just haven't been able to see each other a lot. We also got to meet people's families - and the weather couldn't have been nicer."
The texts from the NRMP were another nod to safety - the college decided to forego the traditional handing out of envelopes.
But the result was a huge success, Dr. Grant said.
"It was so nice, so festive, which is exactly the way it is supposed to be," she said.
A total of 118 students received their residency assignments.
Match Day is an annual rite of passage for medical students -- a day when students across the country learn where they will train the next three to seven years in the medical area of their choice. Students are matched through a computer program to align their preferences for residency programs in order to fill the thousands of training positions available at U.S. teaching hospitals.
Lauren Greufe, president of the medical student class of 2021, said the event was everything she'd hoped.
"The weather was perfect, and everything flowed nicely," she said. "The students were very happy that their family and friends could be there and they had the opportunity to share the moment with their classmates as well as their significant others and loved ones."
Greufe said she already has been hearing from younger students, including class officers, who want to hold future Match Days outside.
Dr. Grant is ready.
"If they want to do this again, I'm all for it -- although next year, we'll have a backup in case of bad weather," she said.
"It was incredibly important to do something for our matching students," she said. "And, with the way this event worked out, I would do this again in a heartbeat."