Match Day: The First Day of the Rest of our Lives

Katie Melder (L4) and Thomas Steele (L4) 

I check my watch, its 10:56. After what seems like days passing by, I check it again – only 10:57! One more time… It seems like the clock will never hit 11! This scene undoubtedly played on loop for many in the Class of 2017 on the morning of Friday, March 17 – otherwise known around the medical world as “Match Day.”

This year, LSU Match Day was held at the St. Charles Club Lounge in the Superdome. Promptly at 11:00 AM, Dr. Cathy Lazarus and Dr. Hamilton Farris began calling students in a predetermined random order, where Dr. Fred Lopez greeted us on stage. The entire Office of Student Affairs assisted in some shape or form, and we owe a debt of gratitude to Ms. Bobbie Millet, Ms. Kourtnie Robin, Ms. Melanie Brown, Ms. Carolyn Calvin, Ms. Phyllis Johnston, and Ms. Lindy Mills for keeping us relatively cool, calm, and collected.

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As students were called, a makeshift “human tunnel” formed, through which classmates would pass before emerging on stage. In keeping with a long-standing tradition, every student deposited a canned good in marked boxes and $1 in a lucky “Pot of Gold.” As students exited the stage, we were handed a necklace of lucky green beads in the shape of 4-leaf clovers before ultimately receiving a simple envelope. Inside this envelope held the location of where we will ultimately call home for the next three to seven years, completing the final stages of our medical training in residency.

What about the canned goods and the Pot of Gold? The canned goods were ultimately donated to Second Harvest Food Bank. And as a reward for being the last name called and patiently enduring the torment of hearing EVERY student’s name called before, Rory Bouzigard was awarded the entire Pot of Gold, amounting to over $200 in cash!

That day, amongst our families, friends, peers and mentors we received more than just an envelope. That simple piece of paper was a guarantee of a future many of us have dreamed about since middle school. For many, opening the letter meant attending their dream program, and for some, a promise fulfilled that partners would finally be reunited after a long absence.

As music played, food and drink flowed, and students and families visited with faculty and staff, I couldn’t help but notice nearly every student was rejoicing. In a recent survey of 150 classmates, 61% of students received their first choice and 95% got in their top 5. LSU School of Medicine has always prided itself as an institution that trains doctors who will ultimately care for Louisiana residents, and this year nearly 50% of the class chose to stay in-state to complete their medical training. Of those, nearly 80% will join an LSU training institution. Of the other half of the class that chose to leave for residency, the programs that matched LSU students include a veritable “Who’s Who?” of prestigious universities: Harvard, Stanford, Johns Hopkins, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, and the list goes on. This is a testament to the superior training students receive at LSU School of Medicine.

Around 2:00 PM, in traditional New Orleans fashion, a 5-piece brass band emerged to lead the students, families, faculty, and staff from the Superdome to Pat O’Brien’s on a nearly 30-minute walk down Poydras, Loyola, Canal, and Bourbon streets. As onlookers and out-of-towners looked on incredulously, snapping pictures and videos of this purple and gold procession, we celebrated the relief felt in the certainty of the future. As I looked around, seeing so many of my classmates reveling in success, a sense of immense pride washed over me. After being through so much together, we have forged a bond that distance cannot break. Now it’s time to enjoy the last bit of freedom, hunt for condos and get ready to receive those two special letters behind our name.