Virtual Match Day is Still Full of Real Emotion for LKSOM’s Class of 2021
Match Day is typically steeped in anticipation. It’s the moment when all fourth-year medical students across the country and around the world learn where they’re going to do their residency.
For two students at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine (LKSOM), the hours leading up to the noon reveal on March 19 were especially exciting. That’s because they’re getting married in June.
Rebecca Loechli and John Pisan met in anatomy lab, early in their first year. Pisan asked Loechli if she wanted to study together for their practical exam. A couple of months into their budding friendship, he asked her out. Loechli declined. But they remained friends, and she soon came around.
“As I got to know him better, he proved himself to be a really special guy,” she says.
Neither expected to date much during medical school, let alone get engaged. But, as it turned out, their experience was in many ways defined by their relationship.
“Medical school can be hard to explain to someone who isn’t in it or hasn’t been through it,” Loechli says. “It’s been amazing to have a partner who understands what I’m going through. It was like having a built-in support system.”
Pisan credits Loechli with steering him toward obstetrics and gynecology. From the start, she knew that’s what she wanted to specialize in. Pisan initially thought he wanted to become a surgeon, but as he got deeper into his training, he realized he longed for the opportunity to build relationships with his patients. Loechli encouraged him to keep an open mind through his rotations.
“A couple of hours into his first overnight Ob/Gyn shift, he called me and said, ‘This is amazing,’” she says.
They narrowed their prospective residency programs to three regions, Greater Philadelphia, Michigan, where Loechli is from, and central Florida, where Pisan is from.
“We constantly heard how couples matching added another layer of complexity to the process, but we felt really well-received,” Pisan says. “If anything, it proved to be an interesting talking point because we both came to OB/GYN for different reasons.”
Ideally, they wanted to match with the same program. At the very least, they wanted to land in the same area. Noon couldn’t come fast enough.
At the start of the festivities, which were livestreamed on Facebook and YouTube, LKSOM Dean John M. Daly, MD, FACS, discussed his own “trepidation” on Match Day as he opened his envelope in a Temple conference room. The contents said he was destined for the University of Texas Medical School at Houston. To him and his young family, “Texas seemed like another country.”
The anxiousness that colored much of his summer and first-day nervousness faded, Dr. Daly said, when he realized that Temple had prepared him well.
The 2021 Main Residency Match was the largest in the National Resident Matching Program’s (NRMP) history. A record-high 48,700 applicants – an increase of 8.3 percent over 2020, and the largest single-year increase to date – submitted program choices for 38,106 positions, the most ever offered in the Match. The number of available first-year positions (PGY-1) rose to 35,194, an increase of 928 over 2020. The increase in positions was due largely to the continued growth in the number of Match-participating programs, according to the NRMP. In the last five years, the number of participating programs has grown by nearly 17 percent.
For applicants, the Main Residency Match process begins in the fall during the final year of medical school, when they apply to the residency programs of their choice. Throughout the fall and early winter, applicants interview with the programs. This year, because of the pandemic, the interviews were conducted entirely online. Then, from mid-January to late February, the applicants and program directors rank each other in order of preference and submit the preference lists to the NRMP, which processes them using a computerized mathematical algorithm to match applicants with programs.
Urology and ophthalmology residents-in-waiting match first, in early February. For future urologist Jennifer Lee, that meant Match Day lost a bit of its luster. Nevertheless, she was eager to share the experience with a few close friends who were still waiting to find out where they were headed. “I think I’m more excited for their Match Day than I was for mine,” she said earlier in the week.
Lee, who matched with Kaiser Permanente Los Angeles, a six-year residency for which two applicants are selected each year, will be the first female LKSOM graduate to pursue a urology residency in recent memory.
Urology wasn’t a field that was on Lee’s radar when she donned her white coat for the first time in August 2017, but, she says, “It’s hard now to think back to a time when I didn’t want to do urology.”
Her first significant exposure to it came during a rotation in her third year. “It seemed to be the perfect mix of surgically and medically managing patients,” she says. “And there’s just so much variety among treatments.”
While performing research under the direction of Daniel Eun, MD, Temple’s Chief of Robotic Surgery and Director of Minimally Invasive Robotic Urologic Oncology and Reconstructive Surgery, Lee discovered “one of the main reasons” why she was compelled to enter the field. In following up with some of Dr. Eun’s patients, they continued to express their gratitude for his intervention even years later.
“So much of urology is about quality of life,” Lee says. “Being able to urinate is a basic bodily function. When you can restore that ability in someone who’s struggled with it, you have the potential to have a big impact on their life. Dr. Eun’s mentorship and encouragement helped solidify my decision.”
Following a day of wedding planning, Loechli and Pisan watched the Match Day ceremony in Pisan’s family home in Orlando, surrounded by both of their families. Minutes before noon, Pisan noticed he’d already received the email with his match – no envelopes this year. Loechli convinced him to wait to open it.
An hour later, Loechli admitted, “We weren’t sure what to expect. We’re still processing. And celebrating.”
Celebrating because they’ll be together at St. Luke’s University Health Network for the next four years.
Interested in seeing where LKSOM graduates are headed next? View the Match Day Map to see the many locations around the country where the LKSOM flag will soon be flying.