Soon-to-be physicians at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine celebrated their long-awaited Match Day, the day medical school students nationwide find out where they are headed for residency, though the celebration had a bit of a different feeling this year due to the pandemic.

Last year, the Class of 2020 had to cancel its planned Match Day gathering just days prior as the pandemic first began to impact the region; this year’s class has lived out the pandemic for a year, enduring many adjustments to plans of study and interviews for residency.

“The Class of 2021 has shown tremendous adaptability, particularly when the pandemic postponed completion of critically important third-year clinical clerkships and severely restricted the availability of external clinical electives,” said Lee Learman, dean of the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine. “The class has been flexible and forward-thinking throughout these historic challenges, and it has paid off with some remarkable Match Day results. We are proud of the entire class!”

The Class of 2021 was able to come together for Match Day in-person, though current public health and university guidelines had to be followed. Attendance was limited to the class and a small number of faculty and staff members to support the celebration. While most in attendance have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, attendees still abided by public health recommendations by wearing face coverings and physically distancing themselves throughout the Shaftman Auditorium at the Jefferson Center in downtown Roanoke, Virginia.

Of the 38 members of the class set to graduate in May, 36 are headed for residency programs near and far across the country. They will go into programs representing 18 specialties in 18 states, and 31 different academic health centers. This year is the first time a VTCSOM graduate will head to Kansas for residency, adding one new state to the school’s residency match list.

The most represented specialties in the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine’s class of 2021 include obstetrics and gynecology, internal medicine, and pediatrics.

“The class demonstrated resilience during their entire education, but most particularly this past year,” said Aubrey Knight, senior dean for student affairs. “They stayed on track to graduate even after being pulled from the hospitals and clinics last year, they were unable to do away rotations at other hospitals that have been valuable for residency placement, and they were not able to interview for residency in person. Despite it all, they once again, just like the classes preceding them, matched quite well and are headed to prestigious programs.” 

Eight students will do their full residency in Virginia, with three at the University of Virginia; three at Virginia Commonwealth University; and two staying in Roanoke with Carilion Clinic. One student will also do a preliminary year with Carilion Clinic, meaning 41 VTCSOM graduates have done part or all of their residency with Carilion Clinic. 

This year, two members of the class opted to pursue research fellowships instead of going directly to residency. The Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine has a robust research curriculum, with research serving as one of the core value domains at the medical school, giving students extensive experience in basic science and clinical research opportunities.

“I am delighted about our students’ residency match results, and have confidence they are prepared to excel in their careers as alumni of the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine,” Learman said.

According to the National Resident Matching Program (NRMP), the number of applicants and positions make the 2021 Main Residency Match the largest in history.

A student couple holds up their Match Day envelopes
A couple from the Class of 2021, Manavi Bhagwat and Quan Phan, hold up their Match Day envelopes ahead of the noon time when they could open them.
Student looks in his Match Day envelope
Mehdi Elmouchtari opens his Match Day envelope to see where he is headed for residency.
Pinning a pin and photo in the Match Day map
Angelica Witcher, director of student affairs, puts pins with the students' photos on the college's Match Day map.
Dean Learman and Dr. Knight sit on the Match Day stage in sweatpants and tuxedo tops
The theme of VTCSOM's Match Day gathering was "quarantine team." Students and faculty participants, including Dean Lee Learman and Senior Dean for Student Affairs Aubrey Knight, dressed the part with business attire up top and casual attire below with Match Day-themed sweatpants and casual footwear.