Matched up: College of Medicine celebrates students’ residency matches

March 19, 2021
a student dressed as Elton John in a sparkly silver baseball costume parades down the aisle toward the stage
Students dressed for this year's theme of "Hollywood" for Match Day 2021. Sarah Smith, dressed as Elton John, matched to MUSC for her internal medicine residency. Photos by Sarah Pack

Match Day is back!

The Evil Queen, Ron Burgundy, Holly Golightly and the Toros and Clovers from “Bring It On” – they were all there on the second-level deck of The Joe, celebrating the next step in the careers of the graduating medical students from the College of Medicine at the Medical University of South Carolina.

Of course, Match Day never really went anywhere. It’s the day that fourth-year medical students across the country find out, all at the same time, where they’ll be spending the next three to seven years in residency.

It’s a “match” because the students rank the residency programs they like in order of preference, and the residency programs rank the students they like, and then a computer algorithm puts everything together and creates the matches.

The process takes place every year. The match happened last year, just as the seriousness of the COVID-19 pandemic was becoming clear to most Americans, but without the fun, lively community celebration that the College of Medicine traditionally hosts every year.

This year, the fun returned. The event was a little different, of course. Instead of opening white envelopes inside the Charleston Music Hall at the stroke of noon, with family and friends looking on in the auditorium, students received an email from the National Resident Matching Program.

After learning the results on their own, students had the option to join classmates at The Joe for an outdoor celebration that incorporated several COM Match Day traditions, including a slideshow of each student highlighting the family and friends who’ve helped them get to this point and a costume theme.

This year’s theme? Hollywood.

an imperious Disney Evil Queen sits in the audience 
Logan Hood sits through the proceedings with all the imperiousness you would expect from the Evil Queen. Hood matched in internal medicine at Redmond Regional Medical Center in Rome, Georgia.

Among the three Nicolas Cages, seven Will Ferrells, a Zach Galifianakis, the Last Airbender and Elton John were students Camila Villacreses, dressed as Audrey Hepburn, and husband, Bryce Robbins, dressed as Cage.

The couple had known for several weeks that Robbins matched to MUSC in ophthalmology; they were waiting to find out Friday whether Villacreses would match to MUSC in vascular surgery, as they hoped, or end up halfway across the country. 

They got good news: Villacreses will enter the vascular surgery residency program at MUSC.

Vascular surgery was a last-minute choice for Villacreses. Interview season had already started, and she had begun interviewing for general surgery positions, when she did her vascular surgery rotation.

“I absolutely loved it. So literally halfway through interview season – I'd already been interviewing for general surgery – I decided to try and apply to vascular,” she said.

“I really feel like I connect with that patient population. I’m interested in health disparities work in my career, and I think that’s a particular patient population within surgery that has a lot of potential for health disparities work. And I also love the range of procedures you can do,” she added.

Audrey Hepburn vamps for the audience while Nic Cage heads toward the stage 
Camila Villacreses and Bryce Robbins head to the stage to announce their matches.
a man and woman in formal clothes smile in a couples portrait 
Villacreses and Robbins in more traditional attire. Photo provided

Robbins, who wasn’t even sure what ophthalmology was when he started medical school, found the specialty appealed to his technology and engineering sides.

“I was really blown away by how fine and intricate of a specialty it is,” he said. “Once I saw cataract surgery for the first time, I was sold.”

Two of the Will Ferrells – Ann Hill, dressed as Mugatu from “Zoolander,” and Nate Silvestri, dressed as Buddy the Elf – each matched in pediatrics.

Hill is headed to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia while Silvestri is going to Johns Hopkins Medicine.

None of the students this year had the opportunity to visit their potential new institutions before applying to get a feel for the hospital culture; instead, they had to rely on the vibe they got from Zoom interviews and advice from their mentors at MUSC.

Silvestri said one of his mentors, Michelle Hudspeth, M.D., did her residency at Johns Hopkins and spoke highly of the education and training she received there. He was thrilled to match there, though he joked before the results were announced that he wanted to go “Anywhere that will have me.”

Silvestri’s parents both work at MUSC; his mother is a nurse, and his father is pulmonologist Gerard Silvestri, M.D. In their own ways, they inspired him to go into medicine, as did his grandparents. He said three of his four grandparents moved in with the family as they approached the end of life. Helping to care for them – even with things as simple as helping them up and down stairs – steered him toward a career caring for others. However, he ultimately knew that he wanted to work with children.

Kids are just more fun, he said.

Buddy the Elf saunters down the aisle toward the stage at Match Day celebrations 
Nate Silvestri heads to the stage to announce his match.

“I can legitimately wear an 'Elf' costume to work on Christmas, and everyone will be OK with it,” Silvestri said.

Hill was also inspired by a doctor parent. Her mother is pediatric radiologist Jeanne Hill, M.D. Although Jeanne would have liked for her to have gone into radiology, Ann wanted a specialty with more patient interaction.

She was also looking for a position in a large academic medical center that would expose her to complex cases and perhaps something in another part of the country since she’s always lived in the Southeast.

She’d like to subspecialize and is currently considering pediatric cardiology, pediatric critical care or pediatric emergency care.

a student dressed as Mugatu from Zoolander at the microphone 
A student low-fives everyone as he runs up the aisle toward the stage 
Top: Ann Hill dressed as Mugatu to announce her match. Bottom: Trace Neal is headed to an internal medicine residency at Massachusetts General.

Altogether, 97.7% of the class matched this year. They are headed across the nation to places as far as Hawaii and as near as the Grand Strand.

Four participated in the military match and will begin their service at Eisenhower Army Medical Center in Augusta, Georgia; San Antonio Military Medical Center in Texas; Tripler Army Medical Center in Honolulu, Hawaii; and UC Davis Health/Travis Air Force Base in California.

A third of the class will remain in South Carolina. Because students couldn’t do away rotations at other medical schools or visit programs for in-person interviews, match watchers had speculated that students and programs across the country might be inclined to stick to known entities. But the rate of in-state matches for MUSC students is consistent with previous years’ classes.

A significant portion, 43%, of the class is committed to primary care specialties: 18.6% to internal medicine, 8.5% to pediatrics, 1.7% to medicine-pediatrics, 12.4% to family medicine and 2.3% to obstetrics and gynecology.