15:53 PM

Ohio State medical students face change in traditions but embrace new challenges

COVID-19 delivers a different Match Day for students

Medical students on the cusp of graduation are entering a world where the COVID-19 pandemic has upended some longstanding traditions but not their commitment to service.

For Peter Lancione, a fourth-year medical student at The Ohio State University, one area of uncertainty came into focus last week when he learned he would continue his education with a residency at Ohio State. He was one of 184 Ohio State medical students who would have gathered in the Ohio Union with friends and family to celebrate the annual Match Day event. Instead, to preserve social distancing guidelines, the program moved online.

“I woke up and went for a walk outside just to pass the time until noon. Then I started a group video chat with my family and we watched the speeches from our dean,” he said. “The email [confirming my residency] came through about three minutes earlier than I was expecting, so I opened it on my phone with my family watching me and let them know I was going to stay at Ohio State for five more years.”

Webcasting the program from an auditorium in Meiling Hall, college leaders did their best to maintain the spirit of Match Day. They praised students for their hard work and success placing in some of the best residency programs in the nation.

“The nearly 70-year-old tradition, known affectionately as Match Day, is normally a time of social celebration for medical students,” said James Rocco, interim dean for the College of Medicine. “Instead our ‘Match Day,’ has been modified by a new word in the international lexicon: social distancing.”

Lanicone said the change in setting didn’t change the mood for his peers.

“We were all yelling and celebrating with each other when we found out where everyone was going,” he said. “The only different thing is we would have been high fiving and fist-bumping. But we were celebrating and cheering over the video call.”

Rocco commended the students for pitching in during the crisis to help screen patients; provide child-care and pet sitting for residents, nurses and physicians; assist the YMCA in collecting basic necessity and non-perishable food items for the homeless, and triage the concerns of callers whose questions are routed through the medical center’s call center.

Nationwide, an estimated 40,000 applicants compete for around 33,000 residency positions, said Daniel Clinchot, vice dean for medical education. In addition to the 184 Ohio State seniors who matched in the National Residency Matching Program, one matched in the Canadian match program and several others matched in the military.

Students placed in various states around the country, including California, New York, Illinois and Pennsylvania, with 41% matching in Ohio and 20% in Columbus.

“This will not be the first time you will be called to sacrifice in your profession as a doctor,” Rocco said. “It is what makes us, in my humble opinion, the most noble of professions and worthy of esteem so many assign to us.”

Lanicone’s residency will continue his education in otorhinolaryngology or ear, nose and throat surgery. He said serving in the medical profession during the height of a global pandemic was sobering.

“It makes it feel a little more real, knowing that in three or four months I’ll be starting as a resident in the hospital. When you read about how [COVID-19] affects health care workers, it hits a little harder knowing that I’ll be there in a few months,” he said. “But I'm excited to get started in whatever role they need me.”

While the future remains uncertain, Lanicone is glad he matched with Ohio State.

“It feels good to be able to stay somewhere that I know exactly what I’m going to get in the next five years,” he said. “I know exactly how they treat people, how they train people. I’m excited to stay. Ohio State was far and away my top choice.”

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