At annual event, Keck School of Medicine of USC students prepare to take the next step on their medical training journeys.
By Jeremy Deutchman
Though it has been a winter of record-setting rains, it was nothing but blue skies Friday, as members of the MD class of 2023 gathered at Keck School of Medicine to tear open the envelopes that held the maps to their futures.
Finding those futures was part of Match Day, which each year brings students together – along with family and friends – to learn where they will be spending their residencies as they continue to advance their medical training. Each year, students nationwide receive the news at precisely 9 am Pacific Daylight Time, and this year at the Keck School, as the clock moved to the top of the hour, the anxious rustle of paper quickly gave way to shouts of delight.
“I got my first choice!” enthused Devin Skoll, who discovered she had matched with a three-year internal medicine residency at Columbia. It was an accomplishment she credits, in part, to her time at the Keck School. “I’ve loved it here; it’s been absolutely incredible,” she said. “I wouldn’t have changed this experience for the world.”
Phil Paulson was equally excited. He matched at two places near the top of his wish list: Portland’s Oregon Health & Science University, where he will spend a year in preliminary surgery, followed by a residency in anesthesia at the University of Colorado in Denver. “The Keck School helped make it possible by creating such a great environment that actually encourages students to support each other,” he said.
In her opening remarks, Carolyn Meltzer, MD, dean of the Keck School, said that regardless of their individual destinations, students can look forward to rewarding careers as physicians. The fulfillment, she noted, would also bring opportunity.
“As you move onto this next phase, when a door opens, step forward with courage. Keep challenging the status quo. Embrace new knowledge whenever you can,” Meltzer said. “This is an exciting time for medicine, and we are on the cusp of transformational changes in our ability to diagnose disease and treat our patients with greater precision than ever before.”
For Newark, New Jersey native Janine Cadet, who grew up on the East Coast and received her undergraduate degree from Princeton, the match presented a chance to extend her stay in Los Angeles.
“I came to the Keck School for a summer research program when I was in college and really enjoyed it, so when it was time to apply to medical school, and I started thinking about places that would get me outside of my New York/New Jersey bubble. The Keck School was an obvious choice,” she said.
It was a choice she would happily make again. “I took five years instead of four so I could get my master’s in public health as well, and my time here has been amazing,” Cadet said. “I’ve met the most awesome people who all have the motivation to become the best doctors and caregivers for patients, and the faculty and staff take time out of their schedules to help students learn and grow. I thought initially I’d head back east for my residency, but the Keck School was so remarkable that they made it too hard!”
Cadet ended up ranking the emergency medicine program at LA County + USC Medical Center number one, and she was elated to learn it had been a match. “I’m super excited, and also humbled to be able to stay and serve in Los Angeles,” she said.
Also staying local was Alberto Ortega, who found he had matched with the Keck Medicine Family Medicine Residency Program. Born and raised in Los Angeles – the first member of his household to be born in the United States – Ortega attended USC as an undergraduate and was eager to continue for his graduate studies.
“Growing up in a low-income, immigrant neighborhood, the disadvantages I had early in life exposed me to inequities, and I wanted to go to a med school with a proven commitment to serving the community,” Ortega said. Being a native, he said he knew the important safety net role that LA County + USC Medical Center plays. “I knew I belonged at the Keck School.”
Ortega pursued a joint MD/MBA in conjunction with the USC Marshall School of Business, and was accepted into the prestigious Primary Care Program, a track focused on underserved urban populations. “I was able to do things like lead educational workshops on diabetes management and participate in providing in-home services for low-income elderly,” he said.
Having access to those types of opportunities reinforced Ortega’s desire to extend his training at USC, which he put at the top of his residency match list. “I am so thrilled to be able to continue serving my home community and have no doubt the training I receive will allow me to achieve my dream of being an excellent family physician for patients of all ages,” he said.
For Ortega and his peers, the next chapter will bring more long days of toil and study. But, at Match Day, students were content to bask in the glow of their hard-won success, and Dean Meltzer encouraged them to take a moment for celebration. “We are incredibly proud of you and the hard work and resilience that have propelled you forward,” she said. “Congratulations on reaching this milestone.”
For more about Match Day, visit keck.usc.edu/matchday.