Medical students learn their next steps at Match Day

Students in Iowa, nationwide find out residency placements

IOWA CITY — Friday was Match Day 2018 at the University of Iowa’s Carver College of Medicine and at universities nationwide, the day final-year medical students found out where their medical education will take them next.

After years of education and months of interviews, 154 of the UI’s 158 senior medical students learned their residency placements from the National Resident Matching Program to continue their medical education.

Three students secured their residency through the armed forces and one student has deferred.

“This just validates everything that we’ve been doing and shows what we’ve been studying and what we’ve been trying to achieve means something to a program, to a hospital to say, ‘This is a doctor we want taking care of our patients,’” said Ethan Craig, a 27-year-old Cedar Rapids resident who was among the medical students who were matched Friday.

For these students, it’s a bigger deal than completing medical school.

“I’m more excited for this than I am for graduation,” said Meredith Parsons, a 28-year-old student hoping for a pathology residency at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics.

She added, “I went to undergrad (at the UI), and I used to walk past as Match Days were happening in the past and I always wanted to be there. Now I finally get to.”

These students will be sent across the country for their training. Among them, 14 will go to California, 11 will head to Illinois, and Missouri and Wisconsin each will receive 10 residents.

Some are set to stay in their own backyard, with 36 remaining in Iowa for their first year of postgraduate training and 28 of those 36 placed at UIHC.


Among their year’s class, 71 students chose primary care specialties — 25 in internal medicine, 20 in family medicine, 18 in pediatrics and eight in obstetrics and gynecology.

Ethan Craig applied for training in otolaryngology, a surgical subspecialty within medicine that deals with conditions of the ears, nose and throat.

He discovered an interest in the field during medical school, but it also comes from personal experience. Ethan was born with cleft lip and palate that required seven reconstructive procedures, which were done by Dr. John Canady, an otolaryngologist at UIHC.

“One of the things I’ve always remembered about Dr. Canady and that team is that he would always talk to me,” Craig said. “Having been in med school and gone through it, a lot of people fall in the trap: They talk to the parents and they don’t make the kids feel like they’re being taken care of. Dr. Canady always did a good job.”

For Debbie Craig, 59, of Cedar Rapids, her son’s career choice was no surprise.

“I always thought Ethan would pay it forward, she said. “... you could just tell that he felt passionate that he had gone through something extraordinary and he felt he needed to pass that on.”


Hundreds packed into the atrium of the Medical Education Research Facility building on campus Friday morning, and as the minutes ticked closer to 11 a.m., the energy was palpable.

But with it came anxiety, and Ethan Craig’s was paired. His fiancee, Annie Hess, with whom he graduated from Georgia Tech, attended medical school at Tulane University Medical School in New Orleans. They were going to learn their placements at the same time.

They applied for residencies as a couple, selecting the same top choices, but nothing is guaranteed on Match Day.


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“You want to get excited, but there’s all that hesitation,” Craig said. “You want to make plans and you want to shop for houses, but you don’t want to fall in love with a place and then end up somewhere else.”

But the couple, who are planning to wed in June, did receive good news on Monday — they matched in the same city.

“It’s just the biggest relief ever,” he said.

Match Day began in earnest as the names were rattled off, and students started taking the envelopes containing their matches — some looking gleeful and others pained.

Match Day tradition dictates all students drop a dollar in a basket when they go up for their matches. The last name called gets the pot — an apology, in a sense, for making the individual wait so long.

Some students opened their envelops immediately and small celebrations broke out. There were plenty of hugs and teary eyes.

Craig’s name was called. He took his envelop and made his way to a quiet corner away from the packed atrium, with his parents a few yards behind him. His fiancee, Hess, planned to FaceTime him once she got her envelop, so they can open them together.

After 10 minutes, the commotion in the atrium started to wind down. All of the names had been called and someone has earned the dollar bills.

Then, Annie called.

“Here we go ...,” Ethan said, opening his white envelope.

There was a pause. Ethan grinned and there’s a commotion on the other end of the video feed.

It’s Washington University Medical Center. They both got their first choice.

“I don’t even know how to put it into words,” Craig said. “It’s been a tough couple months making all of this happening and going through the interview process ... but it’s all worked out.”

So now, for Iowa’s final year medical students, it’s time to think about next steps.


“We’re just excited because we couldn’t talk about plans,” said Ethan’s father, Jim. “Every time we’d try to talk about plans, (Ethan) would say, ‘We can’t talk about plans, not until this is over.’ Now we get to plan.”

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