March 19, 2021

Unforgettable: Class of 2021 celebrates 99% residency match rate despite pandemic challenges

The futures of the 280 students who make up the Wayne State University School of Medicine Class of 2021 were revealed in the brief time it took to open an email on the nationally observed residency Match Day, held March 19. Their fourth and final year of medical school was nothing short of memorable, launched last year amid the early stages of the worldwide pandemic that catapulted them to the front lines of COVID-19 through in-person volunteer opportunities and clinical rotations and, of course, virtual versions of everything else.

Kendra Colbert celebrated matching with her No. 1 residency program pick surrounded by her sisters, niece and nephew. 

For the majority of medical students across the United States, Match Day is held the same day and time every year. On Match Day, senior medical students learned what residency training program they matched with, excluding those who participated earlier this year in a military-based match and two other early match residencies for Ophthalmology and Urology. Students who applied to Canadian programs will learn residency results in April.

Associate Dean of Student Affairs and Career Development Margit Chadwell, M.D., called the Class of 2021's 99% match rate a historic high for the school.

Associate Dean of Student Affairs and Career Development Margit Chadwell, M.D. ’94, welcomed the students and their families to the School of Medicine’s Match Day live stream that began at 10 a.m., reminding them that they were the first (and hopefully only, she added) class to experience their entire senior year in a pandemic.

“You have sacrificed and achieved more in the history of this school than any other class. It was you who, in faith, walked forward through the pandemic, in the heart of Detroit’s COVID surge, donning PPE, administering testing, setting the example for vaccination, and caring for the sick and dying, while trying to keep your loved ones safe, many of you contracting the virus yourselves,” she said. “You have made history. We want to thank you for persevering and triumphing. Congratulations, my unforgettable Wayne Warrior Class of 2021.”

The Match Day celebration streamed live until noon via YouTube and Wayne.edu/live. It included speeches and special appearances from many School of Medicine student leaders, faculty leaders, staff, alumni and even Detroit-born Red Wings defenseman Danny Dekeyser. Special scholarships and awards for the Class of 2021 were also announced, and students shared humorous and poignant stories of friendship in a live “open mic” session. 

A map shows the placement of students throughout the country, with a heavy concentration (55%) in Michigan.

Students then counted down the seconds before noon, when they received the email containing their residency assignment for the next three to seven years, depending on their medical specialty.

Joshua Brady learned he matched with the Dermatology program at the University of Oklahoma, and will start the residency after a transitional year at the University of Central Florida. Brady fell in love with the specialty early in medical school. He was born and raised in upstate New York, and his family now lives in Oklahoma City. His parents flew in to celebrate Match Day with him and some of his closest friends, who have all been vaccinated against COVID-19.

“We started out the day celebrating with the Wayne State Virtual Match Day event, then opened our emails to find out where we will be continuing our journey! It is always nice being surrounded by family and friends -- the people who have been supporting me since day one and will continue to support me on my next adventure,” he said.

For him, Match Day brought feelings of relief, pride and excitement after years of hard work.

“Medical school has been both one of the most challenging yet rewarding times in my life and to finally see the culmination of all the work pay off is extremely fulfilling. My grandmother was one of my biggest influences for going into medicine, and I know I am making her especially proud today,” he said.

Of the entire class, 99% matched with a residency program for which they interviewed, which Dr. Chadwell believes is the highest match rate in the school’s history. WSU students will fill residency slots in 23 specialties, the top three being Internal Medicine, Family Medicine and Emergency Medicine.

“I’m very, very proud for this class to achieve this rate. Its historic,” Dr. Chadwell said.

Emily Anderi is part of the 55% of her M.D. class who matched with residencies in Michigan.

The School of Medicine’s faculty and staff, including Dean Mark E. Schweitzer, M.D.; Vice Dean of Medical Education Richard Baker, M.D.; Assistant Dean of Clinical Education Christopher Steffes, M.D.; and Medical Alumni Association President Jack Folbe, M.D. ’89, spoke and cheered from afar for the students.

“Like generations of Wayne State students and Wayne State graduates before you, I know you will make us proud,” Dean Schweitzer said. “Always remember the School of Medicine holds you in our heart, and please hold the School of Medicine in your heart as well.”

Aaron Sherwood enjoys the Match Day sun as he celebrates acceptance into an Emergency Medicine residency, one of most popular specialties this year.

Students posted their Match Day results to social media throughout the day, which were gathered at www.med.wayne.edu/match-day.

“It has truly been the greatest honor of my life working with you, learning from you and serving the community of Detroit with you,” Class of 2021 President Yusuf Qaneer said. He kicked off the event with a greeting that included his mother, father and two sisters. He also led his classmates in a virtual champagne toast.

“Let’s show the world exactly what it means to be Warrior Strong, guys,” he said.

A hefty 55% of WSU’s Class of 2021 is staying in Michigan, several percentage points higher than past years, and likely due to the COVID pandemic, with faculty and students seemingly more focused on Michigan programs. The increase is great news for a state with a projected physician shortage, as studies show that residents who train in Michigan often remain here for the majority of their careers.

Another 41% of the class will enter primary care residencies, which includes Internal Medicine, Family Medicine, Pediatrics and other specialties.

Overall, 15 Michigan-based health systems and centers will welcome Wayne State University graduates to residencies this summer, including 43 to the Detroit Medical Center, 33 to the Henry Ford Health System, 20 to the Beaumont Health System, 12 to the University of Michigan and 14 to Ascension St. John Providence.

Paige Gurizzian is headed to the Cleveland Clinic to train in this year's most popular specialty. 

Internal Medicine residencies were the most popular clinical discipline this year, with 53 students entering the specialty. Family Medicine (41) and Emergency Medicine (37) completed the top three choices.

Students will practice medicine in hospitals, universities and medical centers in 29 states, the most popular being Michigan, California, Illinois, New York and Ohio.

Kendra Colbert matched with her No. 1 pick of Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine’s General Surgery residency. “I personally am very excited to move. I love the mountains and am excited to try something different,” she said.

The Match Day event followed the protocol of the National Resident Matching Program, a private non-profit corporation established in 1952 to provide a uniform date of appointment to graduate medical education positions in the United States.

WSU’s match rate surpassed the national average match rate of 93% by 6%. The number of applicants who registered for the 2021 Main Residency Match reached an all-time high of 48,700, an increase of 3,741 (8.3%) over 2020, and the largest single-year bump in recorded history. In turn, a record-high 42,508 applicants submitted program preferences, an increase of 2,424 (6%) over 2020 and the largest since 2013.

More than 20,000 U.S. seniors like those at WSU participated in the Match.

The physicians-in-training will receive their medical degrees in a commencement ceremony on June 8, and begin residencies in July.