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Med students matched to residency programs

Amanda Marsh • Mar 16, 2012 at 10:24 PM

Blair Abelson held a phone to each ear after she and boyfriend David Reece tore open the envelopes that reveled their futures.

“I was calling my mom and dad,” Blair said. “They weren’t able to come up this weekend, so I had my mom on one ear and my dad on the other screaming to them.”

Before calling her parents with the good news, the East Tennessee State University James H. Quillen College of Medicine student had to attend the Match Day celebration Thursday morning to find out where she and David will go for residency training post graduation.

They were among 57 members of the class of 2012 that discovered their matches to residency programs that will begin July 1.

The anxiety of Match Day can be overwhelming for any fourth-year medical student, but when it comes to a couple’s match, the expectations are even higher. As they broke the seal and pulled out their letters, Blair and David held their breath in hopes of reading “University of Florida.”

“I’ve been having dreams all week, nightmares really, about not matching,” said Blair, who’s originally from Chattanooga.

Much to their relief, the couple found out that they’ll be heading to Gainesville, Fla., this summer. Blair will enter the field of internal medicine, while David, an Elizabethton native, is set to begin a career in radiology.

“Radiology is a very competitive field right now. Internal medicine isn’t as competitive, but since we’re couples matching, we linked our applications together so his competitiveness is my competitiveness,” Blair said with a laugh.

David and Blair have been dating since their first year at Quillen and began considering a couple’s match last year. After 13 interviews with other residency programs, a rotation at the University of Florida solidified the school as their top choice. They applied in September and have tried to stay focused on completing their final year of school, even though their minds were constantly wondering what the future had in store for them.

Regardless of what the letter said, the couple was positive that it would all work out.

“And no matter where we match, I know that I found my match the first year,” David said as he gazed into the eyes of his sweetheart.

Stuart and Erin Winkler were another nervous couple attending Match Day. When Erin quickly skimmed through her letter, she discovered that she would once again be able to live with her husband. The two have been living apart for the last year while Stuart began his residency and she finished her studies at Quillen.

“We’re just really happy to be able to be together,” said Erin, a Nashville native.

The Winklers met at the beginning of Erin’s first year, while Stuart was in his second. They wed and once it came time for Stuart to graduate, he was able to stay close to his wife when he was matched with the Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center OB/Gyn Residency Program.

“Wake Forest is three hours away and a strong program, so I knew that’s what I wanted,” Stuart said. “It was nice that she was three hours away so she could visit from time to time.”

During this transition period, Stuart’s parents relocated from Nashville to help him take care of Noah, their 7-year-old son.

“It (Wake Forest) was a place I really wanted to go,” Erin said. “So finding out today that I matched there was really exciting.”

The Winklers had a few backup plans in mind, but were relieved to learn that everything will seemingly fall into place this summer when Erin begins the OB/Gyn program. Unfortunately, the family may face another separation in several years, when it comes time for them to fulfill their commitments to the Air Force.

“Things could change again,” Stuart said. “It’s wonderful that we met each other in medical school, but being a year apart, every four years or so we’re going to have to deal with being apart.”

With all the joy Match Day brought to the couples looking to take the next step in their lives, it was also a time to consider what lead them to their matches.

“Nobody expects to go to medical school and say that they’ve had the best four years of their life, but I can say that is true for me,” Blair said.

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