UTHealth Medical School seniors meet their match

Students learn during Match Day where they will train as residents

UTHealth Medical School seniors meet their match

HOUSTON – (March 21, 2014) – With four years of medical school almost behind them, more than 230 excited students at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) Medical School found out today where they will begin the next phase of their medical training. Almost half will remain in Texas for at least the first year of their residencies, and 23 percent will train right here at UTHealth.

Known as Match Day, the event occurs simultaneously at medical schools across the country as students discover their destination for residency training. Match Day is the culmination of a complex process that matches graduating medical students with residency programs through the National Resident Matching Program. Every year, thousands of U.S. medical students and independent applicants compete for residency positions. At UTHealth, internal medicine, pediatrics and anesthesiology were among the most popular areas of medicine for residency training.

2014 Graduating Class Specialty Choices
Internal medicine 29
Pediatrics 25
Anesthesiology 21
Surgery (General) 19
Diagnostic Radiology 18
Deferred 16
Emergency Medicine 14
Family Medicine 10
Dermatology 8
Orthopaedic Surgery 8
Surgery-Preliminary 8
Neurology 7
Psychiatry 7
Obstetrics/Gynecology 5
Internal Medicine-Pediatrics 4
Otolaryngology 4
Pathology 4
Urology 4
Neurological Surgery 3
Ophthalmology 3
Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery 3
Pediatric Neurology 3
Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation 3
Plastic Surgery 2
Emergency Med./Family Med. 1
Internal Medicine-Preliminary 1
Transitional 1
Total Number of Students: 231

“This is an important day for all of us,” said Class President Mark Gold, 27, who will train as an ophthalmologist just as his father did. “We are all pursuing our dream of becoming a physician and caring for patients, and in this moment, we are that much closer to achieving it.”

Here are stories from some of the UTHealth medical students who participated in this year’s match:

Wendy Alcanter, 41, didn’t take the most direct route to medical school. Detours along the way included living in Costa Rica, working on a dude ranch, helping coordinate  Super Bowl XXXVI and meeting Bono, planning weddings and, for 15 years, serving as a bilingual elementary school teacher.  “I have been fortunate to do many fabulous things, but as blessed as I was, I still felt this nagging discontent. I always wanted to be a doctor,” she said.  Not one to have regrets, Alcanter enrolled at UTHealth Medical School, setting out to become an emergency medicine physician. Today, she achieved that goal when she matched to the emergency medicine program at UTHealth. These last four years of medical school, Alcanter has served as  a role model for many of her fellow classmates – especially non-traditional students who were pursuing a second career or starting families. Alcanter had 3-year-old and 3-month-old daughters when she began medical school. As a second-year medical student, she went into labor with her third child during a reproductive biology final. Nine days later, she returned to class with newborn Marcelano. “I was either pregnant, breastfeeding or both for five out of eight semesters,” said Alcanter, who grew up in The Woodlands. “It’s been challenging at times. With the support and encouragement from my husband, family, friends and medical school mentors, it has all been possible.  It’s never too late to follow your dreams. At least try. It’s worth it.”

From a young age, Mark Gold knew that he wanted to be a physician. The Palestine, Texas native grew up in a medical environment. His father, a prominent ophthalmologist, would take him on international medical trips where he had the opportunity to witness how transformational medicine can be in patients’ lives. “To be at this medical school right here in the Texas Medical Center has been a once-in-a- lifetime opportunity,” said Gold, 27, president of the UTHealth Medical School Class of 2014. “It’s just been a blast.” Part of the early match, Gold learned earlier this year that he’ll do his ophthalmology residency at Scott & White in Temple, and today he learned that he also matched there for his intern year. His ultimate destination: a place to practice medicine – whether that is right here in Texas or in other countries with global health needs.

Lauren Hoffman and Kyle Oholendt are among the UTHealth Medical School students who participated this year in what is informally known as the couples match. The two Texans met in the gross anatomy lab during their first year at UTHealth and soon realized they were a perfect match. Today, they learned that they matched together to Ohio State University College of Medicine.  Hoffman, 26, will do an internal medicine residency while Oholendt, 25, will train in a medicine/pediatrics program. The first in their families to become physicians, they are looking forward to the responsibility that comes with healing patients. For Hoffman, she was initially influenced by seeing how important physicians were in the recovery of a friend who was paralyzed in an accident. For Oholendt and Hoffman both, it’s about the science, the people and the privilege to treat patients. “Match Day is the light at the end of the tunnel,” Oholendt said. “We’ve worked really hard and now we get to use our skills to help patients.”

For Chelsea Johnson, Match Day was a springboard. A former competitive diver, Johnson, 26, is pairing the discipline she learned in competitive sports with the knowledge and skills she obtained in medical school to plunge into the next phase of her medical training. “I’ve always wanted to pursue medicine as a career, and pediatrics seems like the best fit for me,” said Johnson, who grew up in Keller, a suburb of Fort Worth. She enjoys the challenge of pediatrics and the resiliency of patients who never seem to lose their energy, even at their sickest. “It’s rejuvenating,” she said.   Like Hoffman and Oholendt, Johnson participated in the couples match. She and her boyfriend, Ian Patterson, opened their envelopes today and learned they matched to their first choice – Yale School of Medicine – where they will train together as pediatrics residents.

For as long as they can remember, Joseph and Timothy Krill have wanted to be doctors – specifically Texas doctors. From their grade school years at Fort Bend Baptist Academy to their undergraduate studies at the University of Houston to their four years at the UTHealth Medical School, the ultimate goal was the same: Make a difference in the lives of patients and have fulfilling careers like their two uncles who have medical practices in the Houston area.  “The devotion they have to their profession and patients inspired both of us to pursue medicine,” Timothy Krill said. The 27-year-old fraternal twins from Sugar Land like the versatility, critical thinking and problem solving that come with the practice of internal medicine. “It’s gratifying to be there for patients,” Timothy Krill said. Today they learned where they will do their internal medicine residencies. Joseph Krill will be at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and Timothy Krill will be at The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. “After residency, we definitely want to practice in Texas – most likely in the Houston area,” Joseph Krill said.

Marshall Lerman was a successful attorney working up to 16 hours daily at top law firms. It’s what he had worked so hard for and yet he found it unfulfilling. “I felt that I wasn’t doing anything to make the world a better place,” said Lerman, 37. Recognizing it was time for a change, he was inspired, in part, by the pediatrician who cared for him as a child and who was now overseeing the health care of his own daughter.  “I realized that what I wanted to do was work with children,” Lerman said. “I wanted to help families on their journey as their children grow up.” He began to shadow doctors and in 2010 the Dallas native moved with his wife and 2-year-old daughter to Houston so he could begin medical school.

Embarking on a second career wasn’t easy. Halfway through medical school, after a profound family tragedy, he questioned whether he would be able to handle the grief that sometimes comes with the practice of pediatrics. He ultimately decided that his experience with the loss of a newborn would make him a stronger, better physician for the families he serves. He also decided to maintain his certification and continue practicing as an attorney for the benefit of his patients. For Lerman, Match Day is validation that it’s never too late to pursue your dreams. Surrounded by family and friends, he learned today that he’ll be doing his pediatrics residency at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. “I’ll be making a transition to a career where I can utilize my skill set to make a tangible difference in people’s lives. That’s what pediatrics is all about.”

For Fehintola “FT” Omidele, Match Day was more than a celebration that she will train as a pediatrics resident at UTHealth. It was a thank you to her parents, Nigerian immigrants who sacrificed so much to ensure that their children had opportunities to pursue their dreams in the United States. From a young age, Omidele knew she wanted to be a doctor. When she was hospitalized with severe asthma, she didn’t fear the doctors like other children, and constantly played with her toy medical kit, earning her the nickname “Dr. FT.” “I love people and science. You put them together and you get medicine,” said Omidele, 24, who grew up in Cinco Ranch, a suburb of Houston. She will be the first physician in her family and plans to practice the art of healing in Texas while also creating sustainable global health programs in underserved countries like her birthplace. “Becoming a pediatrician is my way of impacting the world,” she said.

Harold Ray’s path to becoming an anesthesiologist has been lined with encouraging people who pointed him in the right direction. One of the first was a chemistry teacher, who encouraged him to take his love of science and pursue a career in medicine. Next was his academic advisor at The University of Texas at Austin. During an unexpected meeting on campus, the advisor recommended that he apply for the Joint Admission Medical Program, which helps Texas students achieve their dreams with guaranteed admission to one of the state’s nine medical schools. “I was walking on campus and I literally ran into him,” said Ray, 26, who grew up in Inwood Forest, a suburb of Northwest Houston. “It seemed like all the stars had aligned. I figured God was trying to tell me something.” While in medical school, he noticed that fellow students he played basketball with seemed to gravitate toward surgery or anesthesiology. He followed their direction and discovered that anesthesiology, for him, was like being the ultimate team player. Today, his biggest cheerleader – his mother – and other family members were by his side when he opened the envelope directing him to the next phase of his medical training right here at UTHealth. Just like those who helped him get where he is today, Ray wants to encourage others to pursue careers in medicine.  “I want to build connections within the minority community and create footprints for other African American students to follow.”

Identical twins Lindsey and Rachel Schmidtberger joke that it must be in their DNA. Growing up in Garland, Texas, they each decided at a young age that they wanted to grow up to be Longhorns and doctors, even though no one in their family had ever attended The University of Texas at Austin or had careers in the health care field. Together, the sisters chose UTHealth for medical school and during an elective in dermatology, they both decided—independently of each other— that dermatology was the field they wanted to enter. Both enjoy the patients, the fast-paced clinic work, being in charge of the treatment plans and seeing results. After 25 years of living together, it was possible they would receive news on Match Day that they would be heading to different residency programs, maybe even in different states. They were shocked and delighted when they learned they’ll remain together for dermatology residency right here at UTHealth. “We got a couples match and we didn’t mean to,” joked Lindsey as she wiped tears of joy from her eyes. “I am really shocked. I was not expecting this.”

For more photographs of the event, visit MyUTHealth on Facebook and UTHealth’s Flickr page.

Meredith Raine
Media Contact: 713-500-3030