The Return of a Collective Match Day

In the middle of January 2022, as Omicron surged, the Johns Hopkins Medical Student Senate (MSS) had to face the possibility that Match Day might be virtual for the third year in a row. On Match Day, which occurs yearly on the third Friday in March, fourth-year medical students learn where they will train for the next three to seven years of residency. As a first-year medical student, I had stood on the third floor of the Armstrong Medical Education Building (AMEB) and watched as fourth-year students embraced their friends and family members after opening the envelopes that held the names of their new homes. I imagined I would one day celebrate in a similar way. We could never have predicted that the event would be the last “typical” Match Day at Johns Hopkins for two years.

Match Day 2020, scheduled for March 20, underwent an abrupt change as the city locked down for COVID-19 one week before. Rakesh Goli, class of 2020 graduate and current diagnostic radiology resident at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, remembers the experience as “surreal.” His family canceled its flights, and he opened the email containing his match with them over FaceTime. Despite not being able to have the celebration he saw for the classes before him, he says the moment was meaningful and unforgettable.

In 2021, the event remained virtual. Monica Meeks, 2020–2021 MSS president and current internal medicine resident at Johns Hopkins, says her class understood that “we were not out of the woods” in terms of the pandemic and did not expect an in-person celebration. But she wanted to make the day special for her class, as COVID-19 had overshadowed much of their final year. She produced a Match Day video with several classmates to commemorate the milestone. On the day itself, she gathered with a small group of friends to open match emails while tuning into the Zoom event that included student and faculty speakers.

This year, the class of 2022 received the exciting news that the Department of Hospital Epidemiology and Infection Control approved an in-person Match Day event with guests. And a change in March in restrictions for vaccinated and boosted people in nonclinical spaces meant the event could be maskless. Angela Liang, 2021–2022 MSS president and future Gyn/Ob resident at Johns Hopkins, says the planning committee was “grateful to be able to have all students and their loved ones in AMEB.” The event also included a livestream for students who preferred remote viewing.

In a return to pre-pandemic Match Day celebrations, the class of 2022 gathered in AMEB to hear the student speaker, Andrew Lea, reflect on the importance of staying true to our character and passions during the demanding times of residency. Leadership, including Vice Dean Ziegelstein and Associate Dean Chretien, emphasized that we would always have a home at Johns Hopkins. Then came the much anticipated countdown and envelope opening. First-year and second-year students dropped balloons from the upper floors; students embraced family members, friends and mentors. Two dogs even took part in the festivities.

When asked how it felt to have Match Day in person, Joey Whitbread, class of 2022 student and future general surgery resident at Johns Hopkins said, “This is the first time in two and half years we have seen our classmates, and it was amazingly cool.”

As a class with a transition to clinical rotations in the hospital that coincided with March 2020, we found a profound hope and pride in experiencing this important moment together.


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