Many of the University Medical School’s fourth-year students breathed a sigh of relief after receiving their placement in residency programs last week.

Announced discreetly on a single slip of paper in a plain white envelope last Thursday on what is called “Match Day”, each placement signifies the hospital where a student will work and complete medical training for the next three to seven years of his or her life.

For Medical School student Lauren Ehrlichman, who plans to specialize in orthopedic surgery, moving home to Boston to begin her residency at the four hospitals associated with the Harvard Medical School couldn’t be more thrilling.

“Opening my envelope was an incredible rush of emotion,” she said. “In one day, your whole life changes.”

Ehrlichman was one of 174 medical students from the University to participate in the match services offered by the National Resident Matching Program — a non-profit organization that helps to place individuals with various levels of medical training into residency positions at teaching hospitals throughout the country.

Elizabeth Petty, associate dean for medical student education at the University’s Medical School, is one of the numerous medical faculty responsible for helping to prepare students for the interview process.

“Prior to (Match Day), students can’t be guaranteed a specific spot with any residency programs,” Petty said. “It’s not clear where you’re going to go until you get that piece of paper or e-mail — depending on how you receive the news — essentially.”

For the second consecutive year, the Medical School is boasting a nearly 99-percent match rate for its students — about five percent higher than the national average. Petty said most University students match with one of their top three program choices, with many being awarded their first choice. However, students place lower on their lists due to the competitive nature of programs and certain specialties.

Medical specialties that saw a particular increase in interest this year from University students were internal medicine, family medicine, pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology. Internal medicine is consistently one of the top choices among students due to the many residency programs and career paths associated with the field, according to Petty.

University students placed at programs in 25 states and the District of Columbia. Twenty-six percent of the graduating class will perform their residencies at the University Hospital, where University students also train during medical school.

Fourth-year Medical School student Latifa Sage Silski is heading south to The Ohio State University for her placement. A Cleveland, Ohio native, Silski wrote in an e-mail interview that she is excited about her match, which was her first choice for general surgery.

Reflecting on the interview process, she described her experience as tiring but at times humorous, like when she had to field questions about residency.

“Since the process is so counterintuitive, after every interview, family and friends ask you if you got the job, and you have to explain the whole match process again,” Silski wrote.

She wrote that the most nerve-racking part of applying for residencies was developing her match list, which forced her to choose between two top-notch residency programs for her number one choice.

“I think I certified my list several times, changing it based on how I felt on a particular day,” Silski wrote.

Ehrlichman also trudged through an anxiety-filled interview season, meeting with physicians and hospital staff from more than 20 medical centers across the country — more than double the average number of formal hospital visits the typical medical student makes.

On the Medical School’s “Dose of Reality” blog where current students discuss their experiences in the classroom, Ehrlichman wrote that interviews would occasionally include hands-on tasks, such as “suturing wet hot dogs back together” and “constructing structures out of clay,” in addition to the typical relevant questions about her interests and goals.

Ehrlichman said she prepared for each interview by studying various topics in health care literature, but found that many interviewers seemed to be more interested in the University’s athletic programs.

“Going into orthopedic surgery, you see a lot of people who are interested in sports (medicine), and I learned early on that the best way to prepare for interviews wasn’t necessarily reading about health care reform, but just to watch (ESPN) SportsCenter,” she joked.

Considering the matching process as a whole, which began almost a year ago and culminated in interviews from the fall to January, Ehrlichman and Silski praised their mentors at the University for the guidance they provided during the tense time.

“I think every place I went, the Michigan name carried a huge amount of weight … this was true whether I was in California, the Midwest or the South,” Ehrlichman said. “I felt like the Michigan program just prepared (students) so well for our interviews.”

For now, Ehrlichman, Silski and other students will be wrapping up their medical school clinical rotations as their residency program start dates approach. Ehrlichman said she will start at Harvard in mid-June and Silski will begin at OSU about a week later.

Despite the stress that comes with planning for her move, Ehrlichman said she is taking some time to bask in her delight.

“I’m just so happy right now,” she said.

Silski echoed Ehrlichman’s sentiments, writing that she is excited to be moving on to the next milestone in her life.

“Even though this is just the beginning of another journey, I am allowing myself to enjoy the moment,” Silski wrote.

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