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Tufts University School of Medicine

Finding Joy on Match Day

Anthony Norman, who will do his residency in Virginia, is ready to become a doctor. “We’re sort of up in arms and ready to charge the battlefield,” he said. Photo: Alonso Nichols
Monday, March 23, 2020 - 8:00pm

No, it wasn’t the usual crowded party on Harrison Avenue with a podium for speeches and paper envelopes to rip open. But Match Day for the graduating class of MDs at the School of Medicine on March 20 was still a celebration—with virtual shout-outs, real tears of joy, and smiles that lit up the internet. And if anything, what the students have all been working toward was even more palpable.

With COVID-19 precluding the usual festivities on campus, the school quickly looked for ways to mark one of the most anticipated events of med students’ lives—the day they learn where they will do their medical residency.

For each of the 216 students entering residencies, the school crafted online match letters to open to animated confetti and sounds of applause. Student affairs staff created an Instagram account (instagram.com/tuftsmatch2020) with a countdown to Match Day and recruited faculty and alumni to record messages for the class of 2020. They made their “covideos” in home offices, backyards, or wherever they were waiting out the pandemic.

Clinical professor Scott Gilbert shot his video from “deep in social isolation” on a frozen lake, where he was ice fishing. “Today is the result of years of hard work, commitment, and perseverance and you deserve everything that you achieve today,” he said before casting a line.

Students reciprocated by sharing photos and videos of themselves receiving their good news amid balloons, banners, and glasses of champagne. Some of the students set up Zoom video conferencing meetings so they could toast each other.

Anthony Norman of Chelsea, Massachusetts, was camped out at his grandmother’s house with his fiancée and their families—just shy of the ten-person gathering limit. He connected his laptop to the television screen so they could all watch the speech from Amy Kuhlik, dean of student affairs. But when he received his virtual match letter, there was a problem: his mom hadn’t returned from picking up lunch.

“I had to wait almost ten minutes,” he said. “It was agonizing.”

Finally, the moment arrived. He will be doing a general surgery residency at the University of Virginia. He was ecstatic, he said, and despite social distancing rules, there may have been some hugging.

Sure, he missed not being with his classmates on Match Day. But he was with the people who mattered most.

“I’m texting friends as much as possible to share in those celebrations,” he said, “but at the end of the day, my family has been here with me since day one. So it’s definitely great to be able to celebrate with them. I couldn’t have made it to this point without them.”

The coronavirus has left so many things uncertain—Norman’s wedding, for example, which is still scheduled for May 22. Yet he said the pandemic has only reinforced his desire to be a doctor.

“With many of my classmates, we feel this calling to medicine and this desire to always help and be at the forefront,” he said. “We’re sort of up in arms and ready to charge the battlefield.”

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