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Students Meet Their Match

Medical students matched with residency programs across the country

PRIME-HEq students holding Match Day signs in front of School of Medicine background
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PRIME-Health Equity students celebrating their Match Day results at UC San Diego School of Medicine. Photo: Erik Jepsen/University Communications.

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The journey to becoming a physician is filled with a series of milestone events. The first classes. The first patient. The first clerkship. The first procedure. And now, the Match results.

A rite of passage on the path to becoming a physician, Match Day is the day that graduating medical students learn where they will complete their graduate medical training in specific residency programs. The celebrations take place at medical schools across the country at exactly 9 a.m. PT on the third Friday in March.  

The Class of 2024 at University of California San Diego School of Medicine is the largest class in the school’s history. The March 15 Match Day celebration included 141 students who matched into residency programs, including 67% of them who will train in California. Thirty three students will remain at UC San Diego for residency.

For fourth-year medical student Ivan Copado, who matched into ophthalmology at University of California Davis, Match Day means he is on track to becoming a physician who, because of his background, is able to see the world through the perspective of a patient.

Copado’s journey to medical school began 10 years ago when he was working as a sanitation worker at the Riverside County trash dump. He was considering when he could leave the job to finish a degree in creative writing at UC Riverside.

“I was inspired to learn how to write about the patient experience as a cancer survivor myself,” said Copado. “Through volunteer and additional graduate work, I discovered I wanted to be a doctor who could serve any community, especially as a Spanish-speaking physician who had once been a patient. Now I am going to be an ophthalmologist.”

The match process

The National Resident Matching Program (NRMP) process begins annually in September when medical students apply to their preferred residency programs in the specialty of their choice. Throughout the fall, the students interview with their chosen programs and rank their choices in preference order. At the same time, the residency program directors rank the applicants based on their preferences. The confidential rank order lists from students and residency programs are then submitted to the NRMP in February, which processes them using a computerized mathematical algorithm to match applicants with programs. This year nearly 45,000 medical students across the country participated in the Match process.

“Medical school is extremely challenging,” Steven R. Garfin, M.D., interim dean of UC San Diego School of Medicine told the students at the celebration. “We know you are prepared, and we know you will succeed. This celebration is for all of you.”


Collage of Match Day Photos
Students, friends and family members gathered to celebrate Match Day as fourth-year medical students learned where they will be going for residency training. Photos: Erik Jepsen/University Communications.

The big reveal

As the clock ticked closer to 9 a.m., Samuel Polinsky, fourth-year medical student and class president urged his classmates to take a breath.

“I urge us all to hit the pause button,” he said. “When we slow down to savor this colossal achievement, let’s reflect on the countless small, yet brave choices that brought us to this moment.”  

For the more than 100 medical students and their loved ones who filled the room to capacity, Match Day brought up a myriad of emotions. There was sheer exuberance, tears of joy and reflective moments of quiet, along with laughter, hugs and sighs of relief.

“Match Day is a culmination of our perseverance and a chance to celebrate our villages that lift us up every day,” said Heidi Banh, who matched  at the UCLA/VA Greater Los Angeles Psychiatry Residency Training Program. “To me, Match Day also holds a significance that is deeply personal. I unexpectedly lost my dad earlier this year, but he and my mom always believed that my sister and I would be able to use our knowledge and kindness to help those around us. Matching into psychiatry means being able to fulfill this vision through my dream career, and I know he’d be so proud.”

The next steps

Now that the students know where they will complete their residency training, they are focused on the future. A common thread among the School of Medicine class of 2024 is a deep desire to give back and improve health care for all communities.

“I think about my uncle, who, because of his citizenship status and lack of health insurance, lost his vision to diabetic eye disease,” said Copado. “I am now one step closer to caring for patients like my uncle and helping to provide quality vision care to everyone. I will forever be grateful to UC San Diego School of Medicine, the Office of Diversity and Community Partnerships, and the PRIME-Health Equity program for providing the resources and mentorship I needed to explore my passions. Because of everything that UC San Diego provided, I learned that I am capable of becoming a great clinician, researcher, and educator in any community I find myself in.”

For Polinsky, and his fiancée, Jessica Kern, who participated in what is known as a “couples match” the future looks really exciting as the two matched together at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio. For a couples match, the medical students link their rank order list together. The NRMP algorithm will only match the students if both partners match at one of their ranked programs.  Polinsky will complete his residency in orthopedic surgery, while Kern matched in dermatology.

“I am feeling a bit overwhelmed right now,” said Polinsky. “But I know that there are great things to come. And I get to do it all with someone I love.”

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