(Virtual) Match Day 2020

It was a Match Day like no other in VP&S history. In recent years, Match Day has been a rite of passage not just because it determines the future for graduating medical students, but also because family and friends have come together—in Bard Hall in recent years—to share the occasion with food, hugs, and selfies.

This year the rite of passage was moved online because of the spread of COVID-19 and the widespread cancellation of events that bring people together in dangerous proximity.

On March 20, the 136 members of the Class of 2020 who participated in the residency match were invited to tune in via Zoom from home for an event co-hosted by Lisa Mellman, MD, and Jonathan Amiel, MD, interim co-vice deans for education, who offered greetings along with Lee Goldman, dean.

“We are all adapting to the rapidly evolving changes related to coronavirus, and we are extremely proud of our students and how they are managing the many changes,” said Dr. Mellman, who as senior associate dean for students affairs at VP&S customarily hosts the Match Day gathering. “Although everyone is disappointed that we aren’t able to celebrate in person together, we are really pleased that they are with us for a virtual match celebration today.” 

At noon, students received their match letters via email. After the official event, nearly 60 students tuned in for an “after party” on Zoom and shared messages of congratulations.

Despite the unusual match event, the tradition of VP&S students matching to stellar residencies held strong. The most popular residencies were internal medicine (35 students), psychiatry (18), obstetrics & gynecology (10), pediatrics (10), orthopedic surgery, (7), ophthalmology (6), and urology (6). 

Columbia Medicine asked a selection of alumni about their Match Day memories.

Karen Antman’74 recalls: “I was terrified. I was dating a classmate, Elliott Antman, and there was no couples match so we could easily have ended up 3,000 miles apart. I took my envelope into the ladies room close by and opened it in private. I was delighted to have matched to CUMC! I then went to find Elliott who had also matched to CUMC, so everything turned out fine.”

Elliott Antman’74: “Boy, was I glad to see we matched at CUMC together. I was not sure if my 10-year-old Volvo would hold up during potential trips to visit Karen. Now we could ‘walk to work’ together; the rest is history for our family!” 

Martha Stitelman’78: “I remember almost nothing about the match. Being headed for family practice and tied to the New York metro area, I had very few choices, so I threw myself on fate’s mercy, matched at Overlook (without, I think, even a visit there), and it all worked out pretty well in the end. I dimly remember some senior resident telling us that no matter where we matched, if things didn’t work out, we could eventually move on elsewhere, and I have found that good advice for just about every life decision then and since.”

Elyse Seidner-Joseph’86: “The night before our Match Day, we had a show and a party. Afterwards, a bunch of us drove to an all-night diner in New Jersey. I went straight from there to the auditorium in Hammer, where Dean Lewis handed out envelopes. No spouses or parents were there, no photographs or flowers or balloons. I was glad to match at my first choice (CPMC in internal medicine) along with several close friends in the class.”

Peter Budetti’70: “I don’t recall any major ceremony. I remember only a crowd of students milling about in an auditorium/classroom and tearing open their envelopes. Reactions ranged from glee to sullen withdrawal. Some were delighted and started talking about getting married and beginning their careers, others were less enthusiastic but placated, and a few were dismayed. The one reaction that has stuck with me was from one of my classmates who had matched in exactly the same position as I had. I was pleased, since the internship was exactly what I wanted and I thought it would be cool to have the two of us together; however, as I recall, my classmate was seriously displeased and immediately set out to make a change and find a different appointment.” 

Barbara Wirostko’91: “I honestly do not remember much. I recall getting into P&S and screaming. This was now 30 years ago. My husband [Joseph Morelli’90] and I were in different years so he matched first. We could not do the couples match and as such we chose to only try to match in New York. I was ecstatic to stay and match at Edward S. Harkness Columbia. Given my dad was an ophthalmologist there, I had worked in the lab there since high school and basically it felt like home. Joe had started his residency in anesthesiology and staying at Columbia with him, I could not have asked for more. The quality and caliber of the teaching, professors, clinicians was—and is—one of the best in the country.”