Virginia Commonwealth University medical students wearing jerseys from their favorite sports teams clamored in the packed Hippodrome Theater a few minutes before noon on Friday, shouting excitedly to one another over pop ballads that blared from surround-sound speakers. The VCU basketball team was set to play the Oregon State Beavers in an hour and, while the scene at the Hippodrome Theater could have been mistaken for a pep rally, the students had more than basketball on their minds. In minutes, they would be receiving slim white envelopes that contained their fates for the next three to seven years.
Each year on the third Friday of March, graduating students at all of the medical schools in the country learn where they will complete residency training for their chosen specialties. The national event is an annual rite of passage for future physicians and always includes a costume theme to cut the inherent tension of the afternoon. This year’s theme was “Favorite Sports Team.”
“Match Day represents the culmination of many years of hard work from high school to college to medical school,” said Chris Woleben, M.D., associate dean of student affairs in the VCU School of Medicine. Standing on the stage of the theater addressing the room of students who were joined by their families and friends, Woleben first congratulated the crowd for the tenacity it took to arrive at that day, and then he began reading names.
“When I opened the envelope my heart stopped,” 26-year-old medical student David Goldberg said. “Then I saw ‘VCU’ and I couldn’t be happier.”