Match Day 2009

Thursday, March 19, 2009 (All day)

MEDICAL WRITERS/ASSIGNMENT EDITORS NOTE: Media are invited to attend the Match Day ceremony, which is open to graduates and their families and friends only, not the general public. Students and UA College of Medicine administrators will be available for interviews; to make arrangements, contact AHSC Office of Public Affairs, (520) 626-7301. The event also will be broadcast live on the Internet at

For four years, students at The University of Arizona College of Medicine have worked toward “Match Day” -- the day they learn where they will spend the next several years as resident-physicians.

Match results are released at Match Day ceremonies coordinated to occur on the same date at the same time throughout the nation. On Thursday, March 19, at 10 a.m., members of the Class of 2009 will receive traditional Match Day sealed envelopes, which contain letters showing where they will be doing their residency training.  The event will be held in DuVal Auditorium, University Medical Center, 1501 N. Campbell Ave., Tucson.

The theme of this year’s Match Day at the UA College of Medicine is “Oh, The Places You’ll Go” (from the book by Dr. Seuss). As always, the medical student who waits the longest to find out where he or she will go benefits from a Match Day tradition: each student places a $1 bill in a container as he or she accepts a match envelope; the last person called onstage to receive an envelope collects the money. 

Match Day is the culmination of a year’s work in the complex process that matches the nation’s graduating medical students with residency programs. During the first half of their senior year, medical students apply for positions at residency programs, which they then visit for interviews with program directors, faculty and residents. In February, the students submit their list of choices in order of preference -- at the same time residency program directors submit their rank-ordered lists of preferred candidates -- to the National Residency Matching Program (NRMP, or “Match”) headquarters in Washington, D.C. A computer matches each student to the residency program highest on the student’s list that has offered a position to the applicant.

Residency programs vary in length according to specialty, from three years for general medicine/family practice specialties to eight years for the most specialized of surgeons. A residency is a major step in building a medical career.

The Class of 2009 includes 124 graduates -- 66 women and 58 men. Most of the graduates are expected to remain in Arizona for their residencies. Doctor of medicine degrees will be conferred at the graduation ceremony on Friday, May 15.

The UA College of Medicine Graduate Medical Education Program oversees more than 40 accredited residency programs in all major specialties and subspecialties. Nearly 500 residents and fellows are trained at the UA College of Medicine’s primary teaching hospital, University Medical Center; 14 other major participating institutions in Tucson and Phoenix also are utilized. The UA College of Medicine has 20 departments and nine centers dedicated to specific areas of research, clinical care and teaching. Medical students and residents receive instruction from more than 600 full-time faculty members, and all faculty -- including part-time and volunteer -- total more than 1,600.

Eight new residency programs are being created by The University of Arizona/UPHK Graduate Medical Education Consortium. The new programs will be based primarily at University Physicians Hospital with rotations throughout the state, including the Southern Arizona Veteran Affairs Health Care System and the Indian Health Service. Initial accreditation has been received for five of the programs: medicine and psychiatry, which began in July, 2008; ophthalmology and neurology, which will welcome their first residents in July, 2009; and radiology, which anticipates starting in July, 2010. Programs in emergency medicine, family medicine and general surgery are awaiting accreditation. By the end of 2011, it is projected that approximately 121 residents will be participating in the new programs, which will focus on providing health care in rural and underserved areas of Arizona to help reduce the Arizona physician shortage and improve access to health care throughout the state.

University Physicians Hospital is operated by University Physicians Healthcare, a nonprofit corporation created in 1985 as the medical practice of the physicians of the UA College of Medicine. Together, UPH, the UA, University Physicians Hospital and University Medical Center combine to care for patients, educate medical students, train young physicians and conduct clinical research. With more than 350 physicians and nearly 1,500 staff members, UPH is Arizona’s largest physicians group.


Interesting 2009 UA medical graduates who will be available for interviews on Match Day include:

Rachel (Brownstein) State
Rachel, 26, got married less than a week before Match Day -- on Friday, March 13, 2009. She met her husband during her surgery clerkship last year. “It’s hard to believe I found time to go out in public, let alone meet the man of my dreams,” she says. “Dillon is a pararescueman in the Air Force and will be separating from the military just in time to move away with me for residency. I’ve been begging him to open my envelope for me on Match Day.” Rachel will be the first doctor in her family. A Tucson native, she graduated from University High School in 2000 and from the UA in 2003 with a bachelor’s degree in psychology. Prior to medical school, she founded and directed the dance program at Pueblo High School and worked as a career counselor at Pima Community College. Her desire to pursue medical school was sealed when she participated in the Minority Medical Education Program (MMEP) in the summer of 2002. Besides planning a wedding right before Match Day, Rachel’s other “multitasking” experiences during medical school included serving as a Med-Camp counselor during the summer of 2005, between her first and second year of medical school, and pursuing a dual MD/MPH (master of public health) degree (she spent seven months in Saipan for her master’s project, working on an anti-obesity project for children and adolescents). To top it all off, she is pursuing a spot in the match as a “triple boarder” – a residency in pediatrics, adult psychiatry and child psychiatry. “With only 10 programs nationwide and 22 spots available, this has to be one of the most nerve-wracking things I’ve ever waited for,” she says. “It’s definitely a good thing I had the wedding to keep me preoccupied and a great husband and family to support me through this crazy time!”

Laura Mercer
Laura, 25, is a native of Globe, Ariz., and a Chandler High School graduate. She earned bachelor of science degrees in microbiology and chemistry and a bachelor of arts degree in Spanish from Northern Arizona University in 2005. After beginning college as a computer science engineering major, she quickly realized that, although she loved math, science and problem solving, she would be bored staring at a computer screen. Serving as a resident assistant to 90 freshman girls each year from her sophomore to senior years, she saw how little many of them knew about their bodies and health and the consequences of this lack of education. “Medical school was a perfect fit -- using both the science and problem solving that I loved while having the chance to really impact someone’s life, even if only by giving them the tools to impact their life on their own,” she says. She will be the first doctor in her large and diverse extended family, which includes her mother, a banker; her father, a pilot; and her younger sister, who plays volleyball for Arizona State University. To be closer to her family, Laura moved to Phoenix and The University of Arizona College of Medicine -- Phoenix in partnership with Arizona State University for her third-year clinical clerkships -- and to watch her sister’s volleyball matches in Tempe. During medical school, Laura participated in the Rural Health Professions Program (RHPP), working with “four amazing doctors in Safford, during the summer between my first and second year and during my third-year family and community medicine clerkship,” she says. “It was a phenomenal opportunity to learn what it means to practice medicine in a rural area, especially since much of Arizona is rural or otherwise underserved. My preceptors at Gila Valley Clinic were such an inspiration as I watched them use every aspect of their breadth of knowledge while still connecting to their patients on a personal level.” Laura will pursue a residency in obstetrics and gynecology and ultimately hopes to practice in Arizona in an underserved community.

Tom Oberg
Tom, 30, a former Marine, will be the first doctor in his family -- not counting his wife, Christy (Buck), who graduated from the UA College of Medicine in 2002 and practices medicine at the Southern Arizona VA Health Care System. “She’s been the best thing that’s ever happened to me and has been an incredible resource since I decided to apply to medical school,” says Tom. “She knows the stress involved and she allowed me to work as hard as I needed to. She’s also the inspiration for the kind of doctor I hope to be someday.” Growing up on Long Island, NY, he left after high school to join the Marine Corps. Stationed in Yuma, he served four years of active duty, rising to the rank of sergeant. He then attended the UA, graduating summa cum laude in 2004 with a bachelor of science degree in molecular and cellular biology. He decided to pursue medicine because of his love of working with people and being able to help them in their worst of times, and the emotionally complex nature of medicine. During medical school, he participated in MedSET (Medical Students Educating Teens), visiting group homes for troubled teens to talk about self-esteem, career choices, nutrition and fitness -- he swears he hardly ever went drill instructor on them during the fitness portions! Tom will pursue a residency in ophthalmology, and his ultimate goal is to work at a VA hospital in the Southwest. “I love the region, the people and especially the vets. I owe the Marines so much for the opportunities they have given me, and I feel like the least I can do is offer my services to the VA hospital in return.”

A growing number of couples are participating in the NRMP. For applicants who participate as a couple, the match process is more challenging. In addition to each deciding on a specialty, they must coordinate their match lists, taking into consideration the distance between residency programs as they create and rank pairs of choices. Communication and compromise are key – and good practice for any relationship! The NRMP guarantees that both applicants will match at the highest rank combination in which both applicants have been accepted.

Among the couples in the UA College of Medicine Class of 2009 are Michelle Burke and North Noelck, who will be married in April.

Michelle, 27, is a native Tucsonan. After graduating from University High in 1999, she attended Smith College in Northampton, Mass., where she majored in developmental psychology and played on the college soccer team. While in college, Michelle spent summers working as a research intern at The Autism Research Foundation in Boston, Mass. After four years of cold New England winters, she decided to move back to sunny Arizona to be closer to her family. “My family has always been very important to me,” she says. “It was their example of service to others and involvement in the local community during my youth that fostered my desire to go into medicine.” Michelle will be the first female doctor in her family. While in medical school, she met her fiancé, North Noelck, while playing on the medical school co-ed intramural soccer team.

North, 27, has been waiting for Match Day for some time now -- not since he was a child growing up in Avondale, Ariz., and dreaming of playing for the 2004-2007 Suns, he says, but at least since the interview process started last November. He attended Arizona State University where he graduated summa cum laude from the Barrett Honors College with a bachelor of science degree in biology. After “vaguely wondering” if a career in philosophy, economics or anthropology might best suit him, he decided to pursue medicine because, he quips, “The messy blend of art and science, people and purpose, drama and discovery, overshadowed the years of devoted studying and financial indebtedness.” North will share this stressful day with his parents, Alan and Carol Noelck, and his loving fiancée, Michelle.

Michelle and North will pursue residencies in pediatrics and medicine, respectively. “Though this is a busy time, it has been fun to go through this process with North,” says Michelle. “Knowing that we will be together has taken a little of the stress out of the equation -- and I can’t wait to see where we end up!”