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Class of 2020 Experiences a Match Day Like No Other

POSTED ON March 26, 2020

Match Day 2020 at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine was like none other in history.

In a normal year, the medical school’s Maurice J. Stone, MD, Commons is packed with hundreds of fourth-year medical students, family members and friends. This was no normal year, however, due to the rapid spread of the coronavirus around the world.

Instead of an in-person celebration, the party was moved online to comply with social distancing requirements. It may not have been the Match Day for which they had planned, but it didn’t dampen the anticipation and excitement the students felt as they awaited word about where they would be completing their residencies.

LKSOM worked hard to salvage some of the party by hosting a celebration on the Zoom videoconferencing platform for whoever wanted to log in – and hundreds of students and family members did. For the better part of an hour, the feed was filled with tribute videos and various faculty members and administrators offering their congratulations and support. Students were also encouraged to take photos of their celebrations and share them on social media with the hashtags #LKSOM2020 and #Match2020.  

It was impossible, however, to celebrate the day without first acknowledging the awkwardness of the arrangement.

“We obviously never anticipated this, and we’re sorry it must be done electronically instead of us all being together,” said John Daly, MD, FACS, Interim Dean of LKSOM, who addressed everyone live through Zoom. “We’re very proud of you, proud of everything you’ve done, all your volunteerism, and all the activities you’ve been involved in. I know you’ll do us proud wherever you go.”

“We feel your loss today at not being together. We feel that loss ourselves,” added Gerald Sterling, PhD, Senior Associate Dean of Education. “We’ve seen incredible growth in everyone, from orientation to now. Yes, you are ready to be doctors. Be proud of yourselves. This is a stop in a long journey. Virtual hugs from all of us to all of you.”

Like every year, the students found out where they matched at exactly noon. But instead of ripping open envelopes, they clicked on emails.

Dr. Daly began the countdown with 30 seconds to go, and the hundreds of people logged into the Zoom stream held their breath. A second or two of silence ended abruptly with screams and shouts as emails were opened and the students reacted very much as they would have if they were doing it shoulder to shoulder in the Commons.

Fourth-year medical student Marlee Milkis was one of those celebrating.

“When the severity of the coronavirus situation became apparent, I knew it was only a matter of time before Match Day had to change,” she said. “My friends and I began to brainstorm alternative plans, and each day they got more and more restrictive. Eventually, we realized that it wasn’t going to be safe for more than a few of us who had already been exposed to each other to celebrate together.”

Milkis never suspected she’d need to teach her grandmother how to use Zoom so that she could follow along on Match Day. That morning, Milkis said, “for the first time in a week, I put on something other than pajamas and workout clothes and dressed head to toe in Temple red.” Then she arranged three devices in front of her: one to broadcast the school’s virtual celebraton, another to communicate with friends and family, and one more that was exclusively dedicated to opening her Match email.

“I’m never going to know what it’s like to experience a traditional Match Day, but I was able to appreciate all the things that didn’t change, even in the most restrictive circumstances,” Milkis said. “I still found out where I’m headed for residency [UPMC St. Margaret for Family Medicine]. I still got to hear the people I love cheer me on. I happy-cried, drank champagne, hugged a few select people, and got to share the exciting news far and wide on social media. And I even had the bonus of sharing my reveal with more than 30 loved ones, most of whom would not have been able to be there in person.”

As the excitement wound down, students were encouraged to place virtual pins on a Google map showing where they were headed. Like every year, the list of institutions was long and prestigious. By the time the last person left the Zoom conference, the map was a galaxy of Temple stars – each ready to make their mark on a world that had changed dramatically in just a few weeks. 

Now, in an effort to continue the celebration, we invite you to share your own message of congratulations on their matches! Fill out this google form to join other alumni, faculty, staff and friends in building a virtual album of well wishes and support to share with the Class of 2020.

View #Match2020 Highlights on our Instagram >>