On Match Day, McGovern and Baylor students placed in residence halls

Seena Ounsinegad and her mother alternated between English and Farsi, two voices in the anxious conversation of fourth-year medical students and their loved ones about to learn where the aspiring doctors would proceed to further training.

Each person has had a distinct journey leading up to that moment on Friday at McGovern Medical School, and Ounsinegad’s is intertwined with that of her family.

His mother’s struggles with depression and anxiety led him to seek psychiatry. And as a gay man born to Iranian immigrants, he sees the need to help minority populations in a field of health that is difficult for them to access and often taboo.
After years of education, Ounsinegad and his family celebrated his assignment to the UT Southwestern psychiatry residency in Dallas. He is one of hundreds of medical students in the Houston area to advance their careers through the National Resident Matching Program, an annual event that fittingly falls this year on St. Patrick’s Day.
“Oh my God,” said Ounsinegad, fanning himself between hugs from his mother, father, brother and grandmother. “Oh my God.”

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The 25-year-old from Austin is one of 242 graduates to participate in the program at McGovern — and one of the 60% of students who match Texas residencies. Nearby, Baylor College of Medicine saw a departure of 165 students, with 42 percent placed in state. Both schools reported correspondingly high percentages in the primary care areas with the greatest shortages, about 43% in McGovern and 50% in Baylor.

pandemic learnings

The results, hidden in envelopes and opened by medical students across the country at exactly the same time, brought many tears and squeals of joy from medical graduates and their families in Houston. It wasn’t easy: Their freshman year got off to a rocky start when an off-campus emergency canceled the McGovern class’s white coat ceremony, and they’ve spent more than three of their four years learning their trade during the COVID-19 pandemic. .

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For the first time at the school, rainy weather forced students inside for this year’s Match Day celebration. But those raindrops didn’t lessen the excitement of the day.
“They said it never rained on game day before and they never had to do game day indoors,” McGovern Class President John Biebighauser told his friends. “But Class of 2023, we did it. You know, from the beginning, from the lab coat ceremony to today, I really can’t think of a more representative way for the Class of 2023 to end our medical school experience.”
At Baylor, class president Nasim Khalfe said COVID was a defining experience that spurred his peers to action.
“Instead of sitting back, it was very inspiring to witness an innate understanding among our class of how important it was to continue to build our community,” she said. “We adapted. We dealt with every plot twist and we did it with a smile. Or at least we learned to smile with our eyes behind a mask as we care for our patients and each other.”
Even with a challenging medical school experience, some of the students looked forward to staying in Houston. About 25 percent of McGovern students will remain in the program, and 29 percent of Baylor students will match internally, according to the programs.

“I’m so grateful to be able to stay at McGovern,” said Nadia Livingstone, a specialist in childhood neurology. “It was great to finally know after waiting so long.”
Most of the class were ecstatic, although several tried to hide their disappointment at not matching their first-choice residences. A handful of peers also didn’t show up because they didn’t match — of the 42,952 applicants across the country who certified a ranking list, the highest number ever recorded, 34,822 of them fit a program. The thousands who didn’t fit in, including some in Houston, had to scramble this week to find unfilled positions.
None of the students celebrating Friday at McGovern need have worried. Stephanie Lee will be a radiology resident at the University of Washington, and her eyes just filled with tears at the thought of leaving her friends.

‘Perfect ending’

Alex Wilkinson of Utah said he and his wife found a supportive community in Houston while raising their children, 4 and 1, through medical school. He combined it with an anesthesiology residency at Duke University.
“We are ecstatic,” he said. “This is the perfect ending to everything.”
Ounsinegad did not match his first pick, but UT Southwestern was at the top of his list. And he said Texas may need doctors like him — he is committed to promoting Diversity, Equity and Inclusion work in hospitals, as well as gender-affirming care for transgender patients, both threatened by Republican leaders in the Legislature.
“I want to make this a priority and I think for any specialty it should be a priority,” he said, referring to gender-affirming care.

In addition to working in LGBTQ spaces, Ounsinegad said he wants to help immigrant and refugee communities. In high school, her mother’s depression was rampant. Even with a supportive family, he said he witnessed a stigma against mental health care in Iranian culture, with many of her relatives wondering why she couldn’t just help herself more, he said.
Ounsinegad’s mother, Mahtab Yamini, said she was thrilled by her son’s choice to enter psychiatry. The importance of her son’s achievements did not go unnoticed by her.
“It was kind of challenging raising a kid when you weren’t born here,” she said. “As a mother, I am so happy that we were able to provide the opportunity for them here in the United States. That we, as parents, would nurture them and now we will see that glory.”

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On Match Day, McGovern and Baylor students placed in residence halls

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