David Wilson wouldn’t say where he hopes to work as a doctor, but the Thomas Jefferson University medical school student was ready to say this about his No. whatever is in the envelope.”
Friday was “Game Day” at Jefferson and the nation’s 155 other accredited medical schools, a rite of passage in which future graduates open envelopes and find out where they’ll be doing their residency — their “game” at the University. hospital. It’s a competitive process, and for two years students haven’t been able to gather to celebrate the outcome because of the pandemic. Last year the ceremony was held via Zoom, and moving forward, in 2020 the world was almost at a standstill.
But on Friday, the champagne flowed. Flowers and balloons were in abundance. The students were joined by parents, siblings and friends, and cheers – albeit through masks – were in the air.
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“I’m going to Cincinnati!” Wilson, 28, of Ventnor, NJ, screamed as he ripped open his wrap and hugged his mother.
This is the University of Cincinnati, where he will pursue his specialty, emergency medicine. The university has the distinction of being the nation’s oldest emergency management residency program, founded in 1970.
“It really happens to be my No. 1 choice,” he said, pulling a University of Cincinnati mug out of a bag and pouring a Miller Lite into it.
He said he suspected – and hoped – he might get in there. But he also had a few other props from other schools among his picks in the bag. In case.
Mark Tykocinski, provost of Jefferson and dean of the medical school, stood among several hundred students and family members as the festivities unfolded.
READ MORE: Thomas Jefferson University medical students start their careers with white coats, high hopes and Narcan kits
“It comes back to life,” he said. “You look at the energy and the positivity. These are the students who have overcome a pandemic themselves and they are going to do great things.”
The 259 students at Jefferson — one of the largest medical school classes in the country — were about to start their clinical rotations and practice as doctors for the first time when the virus brought the world to a standstill.
“There was a period where we were sitting at home, waiting for the next steps, and it was very stressful,” said Sarah Stuccio, 28, of Pittston, whose specialty is neurology.
Students eventually began their clinical work as hospitals adapted.
“Basically, our entire clinical experience has been in a masked world,” Wilson said.
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Wayne Bond Lau, Thomas Jefferson’s emergency physician and assistant dean of student affairs, said students definitely missed some rotations because people with other medical conditions didn’t come to the hospital in the first few months of the pandemic.
“For a while we weren’t seeing a lot of patients with heart or gastrointestinal issues because everyone was here with COVID,” he said. “I think it has an impact. What this means is yet to be seen. But I can tell you that everyone here is very aware of that, and our teachers are excellent. They really went out of their way to make sure the students had a balanced experience for the benefit of their patients.
Students have also seen how the virus has highlighted the importance of medicine, perhaps like never before.
“The stakes are higher in medicine now with the pandemic,” Stuccio said. “Being able to enter the first floor, at least for me, made it a more meaningful experience.”
Stuccio learned that she was among the 28% of students who matched Jefferson.
“I’m so excited to be able to stay at an institution that I truly love,” she said. “Philadelphia is like a big city, so I’m happy to stay.”
Rosetta Campbell, 32, from Mississippi, said she was happy to hear she would be closer to home. She paired with the University of South Alabama for her major, pathology.
She and her mother, Carla Williams, shook hands in celebration.
“I’m so proud of her,” Williams said.
Williams worked as a medical technologist in the Department of Pathology at the University of Mississippi Medical Center and sometimes took her daughter to work.
“That’s where she fell in love,” Williams said. “It was always his dream.”
More than 40% of the class – the highest percentage – go into primary care, including Toni Okuboyejo, 25, who was born in Houston but has moved back and forth between Nigeria, where she also has family, and the United States.
Okuboyejo said she wanted to be a doctor, like her father, since she was 10 years old. Before opening her envelope, she said she hoped to stay on the East Coast.
She got her wish. She matched with Jefferson.
“I’m excited for the future of medicine,” she said, “and just to see where my career goes.”