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First “Zoom Party” Match Day at Stony Brook Boosts Future Docs Spirits

Raja Pillai, student organizer and MC of the Match Day Zoom Party, is all smiles upon hearing his match to Boston Children’s Hospital. 

To accommodate and comply with social distancing guidelines and prevent the spread of COVID-19, the Renaissance School of Medicine at Stony Brook University class of 2020 cancelled its traditional Match Day celebration and replaced it with a Facebook Live Match Day event so its fourth-year students could share and celebrate their residency match assignments in real time. The 116 students matching to residencies nationwide were invited to participate in the virtual event, which aired on Facebook Live on March 20. Visit this link to view the celebration.

Raja Pillai, student organizer and MC of the Match Day Zoom Party, is all smiles upon hearing his match to Boston Children’s Hospital. 
Raja Pillai, student organizer and MC of the Match Day Zoom Party, is all smiles upon hearing his match to Boston Children’s Hospital.

Match Day is a national event that normally includes approximately 30,000 fourth-year medical students nationally. It is one of the most important days in a medical student’s experience, as they find out about their residency assignments, in effect launching their medical careers.

“It’s my pleasure to virtually welcome the class of 2020 to a very unusual Match Day,” said Kenneth Kaushansky, MD, Senior Vice President of Health Sciences and Dean of the Renaissance School of Medicine. “You are an incredibly bright, energetic and accomplished group who will soon be called doctor.”

Dr. Kaushansky highlighted the class match and singled out a major class accomplishment — that 35 percent of the matched students landed residency assignments ranked in the top 20 in their fields at institutions around the country.

The match placed students into residencies all around New York State and in 17 other states and Washington, DC. The top three specialty placements included Internal Medicine (17), Emergency Medicine (14) and Anesthesiology (12). Eighteen students will be staying at Stony Brook Medicine for their residency training.

Latha Chandran, MD, PhD, Vice Dean of Academic and Faculty Affairs at the Renaissance School of Medicine, kicked off the virtual event.

“COVID-19 has challenged us in many ways. It is testing our resilience, resolve and creativity,” said Dr. Chandran. “So many of our students are stepping up in many ways during this crisis. They have also worked tirelessly to get to today, the most important day during their medical school years.”

“I am so excited about this, ok wait everybody, and let’s bring it on,” said Rajapillai (Raja) Pillai, the student who led the organization of the virtual Match Day event and Zoom party — and was the Zoom event’s spirited MC.

Future Docs Share Their Stories

As one of the Stony Brook students who will graduate with an MD/PhD in May, Raja will begin practicing medicine in a unique Neurodevelopmental Disabilities program at Boston Children’s Hospital. He grew up with two brothers who have autism, and his goal is to become a physician-scientist to better understand the mental health needs of individuals with intellectual disabilities.

Greg Kirschen not only took part in the first Match Day Zoom Party, but the event also occurred on his 30th birthday. And on this day he found out he matched to an OB/GYN residency at Johns Hopkins. He grew up in Nassau County on Long Island and was inspired by his father (a physician) to become one as well. Greg entered the School of Medicine thinking he was going to go into neuroscience. He also took time off clinical work to earn a PhD in Pharmacological Sciences at Stony Brook, which expanded his interests in medical specialties, and he became more fascinated in overall human development.

Several students matching to programs at Stony Brook Medicine expressed their excitement during the virtual match.

“The mystery is over, and we are very excited we are going to be staying here at Stony Brook,” said Dorian Cohen, who matched to orthopedic surgery. Pallavi Tatapudy, another Stony Brook match, will be joining the psychiatry program.

Amanda Peña, another participant, had been inspired to pursue medicine after growing up in an underserved community in New York City. She learned a lot about how good healthcare practices in communities of need change a community for the better. She attended Stony Brook University as an undergraduate and continued on to the School of Medicine. Amanda matched to Lehigh Valley Hospital in Pennsylvania in OB/GYN.

Largest Match Day Ever

Match Day 2020 was the largest on record. According to the National Resident Matching Program (NRMP), which administers Match Day, more than 34,000 medical students matched to residency programs. The NRMP also reports that about half of the students matched will be going into primary care specialties, such as internal medicine, family medicine and pediatrics. Approximately 22 percent of the Stony Brook students matched to primary care programs.

For more about the national Match Day numbers, see this NRMP press release.

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