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

HAMDEN — As the clock ticked down to noon on Friday, anxiety rose among 96 medical students at Quinnipiac University as they prepared to open a piece of paper determining where they will spend the next three to five years.

Celebratory noise, cheers, applause and happy tears erupted as they counted down the last ten seconds.

“I took the Mount!” Christina Nelson, from New Haven, screamed before turning to hug her family members. “I’m really happy. I’m so happy.”

It was a “game day” – some on the field describe it as an NFL draft for doctors. — when medical students graduating from across the country are matched with hospitals where they will do their residencies.
Among the 96 physicians trained, 44 were from Connecticut and nine got a place in the state.
“I’m feeling extremely excited and grateful to be here,” said Nelson.
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 see many different types of patients.
But his match was Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx. That hasn’t stopped her and her family from celebrating the start of her medical career.
Nelson’s mother, Janice Koonce, said she was lucky to see her daughter grow up working and creating relationships with her patients.
“She has a lot of empathy for her patients, she can meet people no matter where they are, no matter what, which is the best way for a doctor to be,” said Koonce.
Koonce said she was “extremely proud” of Nelson’s journey, noting that her daughter switched to pre-med after studying communications as an undergrad. “Sometimes you take the exit and find the right place,” she said.
Philippe Labrias of Milford was the first to choose Harbor-UCLA Medical Center and he couldn’t hold back his tears. Labrias said it took so many years to make, with obstacles along the way.
“I can’t believe this is happening,” he said. “I’m still shaking now.”
While excited about the West Coast adventure, Labrias said his dream is to go there for training and eventually bring that experience back to Connecticut.

Wallingford’s John Chiari is looking forward to starting a new chapter with his girlfriend in Savannah, Georgia. He was chosen in his #1 pick – Memorial Health University Medical Center where his girlfriend was matched last year.
Asked why he wanted to become a doctor, Chiari said it stemmed from personal experience as an EMT patient and worker for years and seeing his mother as a patient.
Those experiences “shaped me to want to give back to people,” Chiari said. “I was very lucky to have wonderful healthcare, wonderful professionals who made a huge difference in my life and I wanted to do the same thing.”
Reflecting on going through the 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 medical students at the Frank H. Netter MD School of Medicine were among 42,952 applicants for a match worldwide for just 40,375 available residency slots, according to the National Resident Matching Program.
Friday’s celebration came against a backdrop of a shortage of health care workers across the country, to the point of affecting Connecticut workers, leaving them with longer work hours and more workloads, resulting in frustration and burnout. Locally, registered nurses are by far the number one unfilled job in both Greater New Haven and the state.

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

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