Fourth-Year Students Anxiously Await Match Day Results After Unprecedented Year

Across the country Friday, fourth-year medical students will learn where they will continue their medical training. But on this “Match Day” — a day that is normally full of celebration with family and friends, as students eagerly tear open envelopes to reveal the placement that sets the course for the rest of their careers and lives, students will instead open an email to reveal their future path.

Since the pandemic began at the end of their third year, students have been forced to adapt in many ways. Classes went virtual. Rotations ceased.

The Class of 2021 has experienced the greatest set of challenges never before faced,” said Ellen Cosgrove, MD, vice dean for academic administration.

Initially, students felt uncomfortable and concerned, recalled Ernesto Acosta, ’21. “Third year is very tactile, and not having that patient interaction is challenging not only medically but also culturally. It’s that time in your medical education that you begin to get your foothold; when you really shape the path of your life. There was disappointment. There was anguish.”

Further complicating matters, students were soon faced with the difficult challenge of choosing and applying to residencies under the restrictions imposed by the pandemic.

“To select a specialty and where to train without being able to personally visit the program, to not have the opportunity to personally meet the faculty and other residents, and in many cases not even visit the city in which they’ll live for the next 3-7 years was certainly challenging and stressful to students,” said Cosgrove.

But as students, faculty and programs adapted to the unusual year, some silver linings began to appear.

Acosta found that virtual instruction actually made some lessons more accessible. “We used standardized patients to help recreate virtual scenarios, and the faculty found ways to adapt so that we could still hear patient cases. In some ways it was more efficient than one hour in the classroom,” he said.

Faculty found innovative ways to welcome residency applicants through interactive virtual conferences and interviews that gave them a sense for the faculty, other residents and the spirit of their programs, Cosgrove said.

“Our application rates increased. Students saved time and money. It helped place our economically disadvantaged students at a more level playing field—saving $5,000-7,000 in travel expenses they would have incurred to visit several programs,” she said.

Their hard work and determination and the challenges they faced will culminate as Acosta and his classmates learn where they will spend the next several years at a virtual Match Day ceremony at noon Friday. Students were treated to party bags containing decorations, noise makers, the traditional Albany Medical College champagne glass and sparkling cider, along with a personalized note to celebrate with at home, where they will receive an email with their residency placement and have an opportunity to join peers in various breakout groups.

While their final year and the events that shape it might look different, the experiences they’ve shared will leave a lasting impact that will not soon be forgotten. “Students will keep with them an inner knowledge of the incredible resilience and flexibility they’ve had to demonstrate this past year,” said Cosgrove. “It will serve them well as future physicians.”