Team Houser — fourth-year medical student Christina Houser’s parents, fiancé, aunt and neighbor — wore color-coordinated jerseys and feather boas as they waited and waited and waited for Houser’s name to be called at medical school Match Day on Friday.
Finally, it was, the very last name called as Virginia Commonwealth University medical students learned where they will do the next three to seven years of their medical training.
Houser got her top pick — Georgetown-Washington Hospital Center, where she will do a residency in emergency medicine.
“You get a lot of variety in emergency medicine. Very high acuity. Every day is different. And you really get to be involved in the community and make an impact,” Houser said.
She also got a pot of money in a tradition in which the students take up a collection for the senior who winds up being called last.
“Being last in the match order was quite the wait, but it came with a $150 basket. I used the money to buy the other students a round of drinks after the ceremony,” Houser said.
Across the country, 35,476 medical school seniors and others applied for 30,750 residency positions. They were told Monday whether they had matched but learned in ceremonies that started at noon Friday where they matched. Those who did not match initially were able to go through another round of matching for residency slots left unfilled.
VCU held its Match Day ceremony at the Hippodrome Theater. Students gathered in an open space with family and friends. Nerves kept many from the tables of food on the sidelines.
Houser’s family came from Southern California to be with her. The purple, yellow and green boas were a nod to New Orleans, where Houser did her undergraduate work at Tulane University.
“It is such an incredible day,” said Matthew Houser, her father. “We want her to go wherever she is going to be happy and will fit best. She has all good options. She’s done a wonderful job. It’s been her lifelong dream to be a doctor. We just feel so grateful and blessed to be here today.”
Anderson and Sandra George drove from Virginia Beach to share the day with son Akeem George, who matched in a pediatrics residency at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas.
“It’s been a long time coming. From a kid, this is something he always wanted to do,” Anderson George said.
Akeem George is one of two black men in the medical school senior class.
“VCU creates an environment where everyone feels supported,” Akeem George said. “We have a strong support network for all students.”
It wasn’t cheers for everyone. One young woman sat on a curb outside of the theater, tearful.
Of growing concern is the number of medical school graduates who do not get matched with a residency program. They can try again next year. Some do a year of research in the interim. According to the National Resident Matching Program, 5.4 percent of medical school seniors were unmatched this year.
“We’re seeing more and more students who fail to match across the country,” said Del. Christopher P. Stolle, R-Virginia Beach, a physician. Stolle sponsored legislation in the General Assembly that would have allowed medical school graduates to practice as “associate doctors” under the supervision of a licensed physician. House Bill 900 was continued to next year.
“In Virginia alone ... we are actually turning out a lot more medical students than we used to, but we haven’t increased the residency slots,” Stolle said. “We’re turning out more folks who could become doctors, but we have a choke point.”
Medical residency slots are funded in part by federal payments to teaching hospitals for graduate medical education. Even as the nation faces a looming physicians shortage, the number of residency slots is capped and has not kept up, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges.