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Lighting Matches: 151 Creighton School of Medicine students find residencies at Match Day

Match DayIt was St. Patrick’s Day Friday. It was also Match Day for medical students around the nation.

And if we can be excused just a moment’s impiety, at Creighton University around 11:25 a.m., it might more appropriately have been, so very briefly, Patrick’s Match Day.

For at about that time, Patrick Shaeffer, a fourth-year medical student walked on the dais in the Ahmanson Ballroom at the Harper Center and announced to a gathered throng of about 500 — plus a worldwide audience watching on livestream — that he was continuing his medical career as a resident in physical medicine and rehabilitation at the renowned Mayo School of Graduate Medical Education in Rochester, Minnesota.

“I don’t know what to say,” Shaeffer said as the instant sunk in. “It’s the best moment of my life. That about covers it. Going into last night, I didn’t want to assume anything, but I wasn’t expecting this. Maybe one of the other top five I was hoping for, but not this. Not at all.”

Shaeffer was one of 151 Creighton School of Medicine students to match into their preferred specialty and program for residency on Match Day, March 17, a 94 percent mark for the School which continues to celebrate graduates like Shaeffer who are entering diverse and prominent programs around the nation.

The day brought with it the usual buzz of nerves, excitement, relief, joy and sometimes pain, as noted by Michael Kavan, MD, associate dean for student affairs, who addressed the students on the momentous occasion in which more is revealed as to the trajectories of their personal and professional lives.

“It’s a celebration,” Kavan said. “You’ve worked hard and we’re very proud of you.”

He then withdrew from his jacket pocket a rumpled piece of foil, the wrapper to a piece of Dove Chocolate, and read the contents of a short poem, the words of which have become a mantra for Match Day at Creighton over the past few years: “No matter where you go, you are right where you are supposed to be.”

And then, it was on with the matching.

Creighton’s satellite campus in Phoenix also took part in the festivities with a live look-in beamed between Omaha and Arizona to acknowledge students who, in a matter of two short months, will debark to programs and points all across the nation.

In 2017, Creighton students were matched with residencies in 31 states including 19 students matching in California, 18 in Nebraska, 11 in Illinois, 11 in New York, and 10 in Minnesota. Along with the Mayo Clinic and Creighton’s campuses in Omaha and Phoenix, students are also headed to prestigious programs at Northwestern University, the University of California at San Francisco, the Cleveland Clinic, Duke University, Dartmouth University, the University of Pennsylvania, Emory University, Vanderbilt University, and Yale University.

Fourth-year students Dorsey Ek and Juliann Koleszar, who will be married on May 25, just weeks after their School of Medicine graduation, finally discovered they’ll also be staying together in residence. Ek matched in orthopedic surgery and Koleszar in internal medicine at Summa Health System in Akron, Ohio. The couple quickly removed to the lobby outside the ballroom to inform family.

“It’s just such a relief and a joy,” said Koleszar, who grew up in the Cleveland area and is returning home with the match. “Our first priority was just to be in the same city. To be in the same program, same hospital? It’s just a great moment for us, for our families.”

Ek, a native of San Diego, said it was the perfect next destination for a long and happy journey.

“We’re just so grateful,” he said. “That’s the only thing you can say. We’re filled with a lot of gratitude to be able to get this match, to be together, to help people. It’s such a waiting game and now we’re just looking forward to seeing where our friends are going and getting excited for them. It’s a wonderful day.”

While many among Creighton’s matches noted the relief and joy of returning to programs close to home, Russ Goldstein, the class president for the fourth-years, was elated to be staying put.

A native of Colorado, Goldstein was hoping for a psychiatry residency match at Creighton. His wife, Amy, who underwent the Match Day exercise at Creighton two years ago for pediatrics, is still at work in that program. The hope was answered.

“Emotions,” Russ Goldstein said as he embraced Amy and their young daughter, Lucy, and his family. “So many of them right now. It’s a huge relief, combined with joy. I wanted to be a part of the program because my wife is here, our daughter. Add to that that it’s just such a great program. I feel really fortunate to be a part of it.”

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