For Your Health
For Your Health

News from the University of North Dakota School of Medicine & Health Sciences

‘Overwhelmed and excited’: fourth-year UND medical students respond to their residency match results

“I’m overwhelmed and excited,” smiled Grand Forks native Annabel Jiran from a classroom on the second floor of the main UND School of Medicine & Health Sciences (SMHS) building in Grand Forks. “UND has prepared me well for the next phase of training through fostering my ability to question, think critically, integrate knowledge, communicate clearly, and empathize – some of the most important skills for continuing life-long learning and practicing medicine.”

She’s headed to Klamath Falls, Ore., in June, said Jiran, to begin a family medicine residency at Oregon Health & Science University. And she couldn’t be happier.

“I chose family medicine so I can work with patients in all walks of life and build lasting relationships with them, their families, and their community,” Jiran said. “I also want to reach those for whom healthcare is the least accessible, and family medicine will equip me well to serve a rural, underserved area where I can pursue a variety of passions within medicine.”

Jiran is among the 72 fourth-year medical students at the SMHS who on Friday, March 17, 2023, “matched” via the nationwide medical student “Match Day.” Every year on Match Day, graduating students learn where they will complete their residency, a period of advanced intensive training in their chosen specialty, before embarking on independent practice as a physician.

At noon (EST) last Friday, such residency matches were given out to a total of 40,375 medical students in the United States — the largest Match Day on record — by the National Resident Matching Program (NRMP), which is celebrating its 70th year of matching graduating medical students to residency programs. Depending on the medical specialty, medical school graduates complete anywhere from three to seven years of residency training after medical school.

UND students are no exception.

“UND prepared me well for this transition to residency by exposing me to many medical situations and encouraging independence in patient encounters,” added Velva, N.D., native Sarah Wherley, who is soon starting a family medicine residency in Bismarck, N.D. “I am so relieved to be staying close to home for the rest of my training. I feel lucky that we have opportunities to learn from talented physicians here in North Dakota. I also enjoy teaching, so primary care puts me in a position to educate patients and increase healthcare literacy.”

Wherley is among the 52 percent of the M.D. Class of 2023 graduates (38/72) who matched into primary care specialties of family medicine, internal medicine, obstetrics & gynecology, and pediatrics. More than 13 percent (10 of 72) of the cohort are set to enter family medicine — above the national average of students matching into family medicine – while 14 students (nearly 20 percent) are entering internal medicine residencies.

“This is a strong class whose dedication to primary care is obvious,” added Dr. Joshua Wynne, dean of the SMHS. “And we’re very happy to see that more than one out of every five of this year’s graduates [22 percent] will be completing a residency in North Dakota.”

Retaining such graduates for North Dakota residencies matters, said Wynne, because many residents end up practicing at or close to hospitals and clinics where they complete their residencies. As such, more North Dakota residency matches likely means more physicians staying in North Dakota, helping ameliorate the state’s provider shortage across specialties.

Primary care notwithstanding, other specialties chosen by this year’s class include anesthesiology, diagnostic radiology, emergency medicine, neurology (including child neurology), psychiatry, and both general and orthopedic surgery.

“I was ecstatic to find out where I matched!” beamed Mandan, N.D., native Justin Schafer, who is headed to Regions Hospital/Hennepin Healthcare in Minneapolis/St. Paul for a psychiatry residency. “I’ve loved my training experience in North Dakota, and I am excited to experience a different patient population that Minneapolis has to offer. Minneapolis is also close to family so I know I’ll always be a quick drive home if needed.”

Schafer said he “fell in love” with acute psychiatric care during a rotation at the State Hospital in Jamestown, N.D.

“The complex social situations, the rapid improvements seen with patients, the constant innovations, and the high mental health need I witnessed in my local communities were the reasons I felt a calling for psychiatry,” he continued. “UND provided me with a diverse range of training opportunities which included a longitudinal multidisciplinary rotation in Dickinson, a rural-focused experience in Hettinger, and time with semi-urban populations in Fargo and Bismarck. I’ve been able to grow my confidence, independence, and adaptability by being in these vastly different locations.”

This year’s UND cohort will see UND SMHS graduates entering not only the several residency programs in North Dakota but those in half of the other American states around the country, including at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., and programs in Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Missouri, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Washington, and Wisconsin.

Match Day is the culmination of work conducted by the NRMP, a private, not-for-profit corporation founded in 1952 at the request of medical students to standardize the residency selection process and establish a uniform date of appointment to positions in graduate medical education (GME) training programs. The NRMP is governed by a board of directors that includes representatives from national medical and medical education organizations as well as medical students, resident physicians and GME program directors.

Results of the Match are closely watched because they can predict future changes in the physician workforce. Of the more than 40,000 slots filled this year, said the NRMP, 34,822 were first-year (PGY-1), an increase of 1.0 percentage point over last year.

“I am very excited for our graduating students,” said Jim Porter, Ph.D., associate dean for Student Affairs & Admissions at the SMHS. “This class, perhaps more than any other, was impacted by the onset of COVID in the spring of their first year. They were thrown for a major loop, but have shown real resilience and grit in getting through their studies and matching into some very competitive programs. Friday was a good day.”

The full Match Day 2023 list can be read here.