New Haven-area medical students celebrate the future at ‘Match Day’

HAMDEN — As the clock ticked toward noon Friday, anxiety grew among 96 Quinnipiac University medical students as they prepared to open a piece of paper that will determine where they will spend the next three to five years.

Party noises, cheers, applause and tears of joy appeared as they counted down the last ten seconds.

“I got Monte!” Christina Nelson of New Haven screamed before turning to hug her family members. “I am very happy. I’m so happy.”

It was a “game day” — some in the field describe it as an NFL draft for doctors. — when graduating medical students across the country are matched with hospitals where they will do their residency.
Among the 96 physicians who graduated, 44 were from Connecticut and nine earned a match in the state.
“I feel extremely excited and grateful to be here,” Nelson said.
Nelson’s top picks were in Connecticut: Middlesex Hospital, UConn Health, Stamford Health and Eastern Connecticut Health Network. She said she has a support system in the state and can meet different types of patients.
But her match was Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx. That didn’t stop her and her family from celebrating the beginning of her medical career.
Nelson’s mother, Janice Koonce, said she was fortunate to watch her daughter grow through work and building relationships with her patients.
“She has so much empathy for her patients, she could meet people no matter where they were, no matter what was happening, which is the best way a doctor can be,” Koonce said.
Koonce said she was “extremely proud” of Nelson’s journey, noting that her daughter switched to pre-med after studying communications as an undergraduate. “Sometimes you take the exit and you find the right place,” she said.
Philippe Labrias of Milford was given his first choice by Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, and he couldn’t stop the tears from flowing. Labrias said it has been so many years in the making, with obstacles along the way.
“I can’t believe this is happening,” he said. “I’m still shaking now.”
While he was excited about the adventure on the West Coast, Labrias said his dream is to go there to train and eventually bring that expertise back to Connecticut.

John Chiari of Wallingford is looking forward to starting a new chapter with his girlfriend in Savannah, Ga. He was matched at his No. 1 choice — Memorial Health University Medical Center, where his girlfriend was matched last year.
When asked why he wanted to become a doctor, Chiari said it was because of personal experience as a patient and years-long EMT worker and seeing his mother as a patient.
Those experiences “shaped me to want to give back to people,” Chiari said. “I was fortunate enough to have wonderful health care, wonderful providers who made a huge difference in my life, and I wanted to do the same.”
Reflecting on going through school during the COVID-19 pandemic, Chiari said it was “fun” and “always different” because everything was new and they had to constantly adapt.
The 96 graduating medical students from the Frank H. Netter MD School of Medicine were among 42,952 applicants in a worldwide battle for just 40,375 available residency positions, according to the National Resident Matching Program.
The celebration Friday took place against a backdrop of a nationwide health care worker shortage to the point that it has taken a toll on Connecticut workers, leaving them with longer hours and more workloads, resulting in frustration and burnout. Locally, registered nurses are by far the number one unfilled job both in Greater New Haven and the state.

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New Haven-area medical students celebrate the future at ‘Match Day’

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