In a photo taken at the last in-person Match Day ceremony, College of Medicine – Tucson Class of 2019 member Leanne Zabala, MD, matched in internal medicine at UCLA Medical Center. (Photo: Rick Kopstein, UAHS BioCommunications)
More than 110 medical students in the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Tucson will learn where they will complete the next phase of their medical training at this year’s Match Day ceremony, which will take place on Friday, March 18, on the west side of the Old Main Building on the University of Arizona campus.
Surrounded by loved ones and in coordination with fourth-year medical students attending similar events across the country, students in their final semester of medical school will simultaneously tear open envelopes at 9 a.m. The contents will reveal where they will begin their careers as physicians. Match Day represents a culmination of four years of intense study, volunteering, research, clerkships, sub-internships and clinical rotations for UArizona College of Medicine – Tucson students.
During their last year of medical school, students interview for residency slots at institutions where they hope to receive further training. Students later rank their residency location preferences, while institutions rank the students they would like to have as trainees. The match process then is completed by the National Residency Matching Program, and medical students are obligated to serve at the institution to which they have been matched. Residency training typically lasts from three to seven years depending on the specialty the physician is pursuing.
“Match Day is the most exciting day for graduating medical students and for COM-T administration and faculty, as we are simultaneously proud to send our graduates all over the country for further training and grateful to have retained many of our graduates in our own residency programs,” said Kevin Moynahan, MD, vice dean for education at the College of Medicine – Tucson. “The fact that we are back in person for the 2022 Match Day adds another dimension of excitement to the celebration, one that will be remembered for some time!”
About This Year’s Event
This week’s event represents the first in-person Match Day ceremony held by the College of Medicine – Tucson since 2019, before the pandemic forced the 2020 and 2021 celebrations to be held virtually. This year’s event will take place outdoors, allowing participants to celebrate safely in person, and will also be livestreamed for those wishing to attend virtually.
The event will open with registration and breakfast at 8 a.m., with programming beginning at 8:30 a.m. At 9 a.m., students will individually gather with their supporters to open their Match Day envelopes, and at 9:30 a.m. they will announce their matches publicly. Closing remarks begin at 11 a.m.
Parking is available for an $8 per car entry fee at the Tyndall Garage, located on Tyndall Avenue south of University Boulevard. A drop-off area for people with disabilities is on University Boulevard at the flagpole west of Old Main. Those wishing to attend the event virtually can view the livestream at satyrlivestream.com/stream/u-of-a-college-of-medicine-match-day. For more information and to RSVP, visit the College of Medicine – Tucson Match Day webpage.
Below are just a few of the outstanding medical students in the College of Medicine – Tucson’s Class of 2022:
Brianna Dolana, MS: ‘Something Different Every Day’
Native Tucsonan and first-generation college student Brianna Dolana, MS, received her undergraduate and master’s degrees from the University of Arizona. Between degrees, she became a certified EMT and worked on an ambulance for two-and-a-half years.
“That’s when I fell in love with emergency medicine,” she said. “I really enjoy that it’s something different every day.”
The experience solidified for her that medicine was the right path, and she hopes to match to an emergency medicine residency.
Before enrolling in the MD program, Dolana was accepted into the Pre-Medical Admissions Pathway (P-MAP), a 13-month intensive medical school preparation program tailored for students who have not had the same educational and economic advantages that many of their peers have enjoyed. Dolana says the experience empowered her to get through medical school with the support and confidence she needed to succeed.
“I felt really supported by P-MAP and the COM-T Office of Diversity and Inclusion,” she said. “It was the best decision I could have made. Without it, I don’t think I’d be in medical school.”
Her favorite memory at the College of Medicine – Tucson overlapped with the culmination of the Life Cycle block in fall 2019, when she gave birth to her daughter.
“I learned all about the reproductive cycle and the lifecycle of a baby, and then a week or two before the final, I had my daughter,” Dolana said. “That was one of the happiest times.”
Dolana and her four brothers were raised by a single mother living below the poverty line, which often led to challenges accessing health care. She recalls instances when compassionate doctors helped her family avoid high medical bills and says these acts of kindness inspired her to pursue medicine so she could give back to her community in a similar manner.
Anna Ressel and Radu Moga: ‘Now I Want to Give Back’
Anna Ressel and Radu Moga met as students at the College of Medicine – Tucson and are engaged to be married in April. They hope to be matched into residencies in family medicine, a field they say facilitates meaningful relationships between patients and physicians.
“Family medicine is a field where I can truly get to know people, learn from them and be a partner in their health care,” Moga said.
During their time in medical school, Ressel and Moga took part in clinical rotations that deepened their commitment to their chosen profession. Ressel calls her rotation in Pinetop-Lakeside, a rural community near Show Low in the White Mountains, her happiest memory of medical school, adding that the small-town atmosphere allowed her to “really get to know the patients, the town and the culture.”
Moga says one of his most rewarding experiences was a rotation with people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. He interacted with them not just in the clinic, but also in their workplaces, homes and at the Special Olympics.
“I got to know people as people, and not just patients,” he said.
Both Ressel and Moga are recipients of the Primary Care Physician scholarship, a program that covers tuition for medical students who commit to practice primary care in underserved communities in Arizona. They both look forward to fulfilling that commitment after they complete their residencies.
“Arizona has been my home my whole life,” said Moga, who was raised in Surprise, Arizona, by parents who immigrated to the U.S. from Romania. “I have been given so much, and now I want to give back.”
“After training in several rural sites across the state, I have developed a love for the people of Arizona,” added Ressel, who grew up in Sparks, Nevada. “Continuing to serve in rural underserved areas would be an honor. I feel at home here.”
In addition to beginning their careers, Ressel and Moga are looking forward to starting their marriage as new MDs and residents in their chosen field.
“We have been each other’s support through the ups and downs of medical school,” Ressel said. “I hope that, as we start our residencies, we are able to continue to prioritize each other as much as possible.”
Austen Lowell Thompson, PhD: ‘You Have to Push Yourself’
Phoenix native and first-generation college student Austen Lowell Thompson, PhD, entered the college’s MD-PhD program in 2015, graduating with his doctorate in 2020. His doctoral research focused on orthopedic pain, and in the future he would like to run a translational research lab to find alternatives to opioids. For now, he is hoping to match into an orthopedic surgery residency, a field he sees as unique among other specialties.
“You can see almost an immediate change in the patient, as long as they follow through with rehab,” he said. “Whether that’s a joint replacement or an arthroscopic procedure, you can see people go from crippling pain to pain-free. There are not many specialties that can do that, unfortunately.”
During his clinical rotations, Dr. Thompson also appreciated the team-oriented atmosphere in the operating room.
“Everyone seemed to work so well together, which really attracted me,” he said. “Whether it’s physicians, nurse practitioners, PAs, MAs, house staff, everyone’s there to help you, because you can’t do everything yourself.”
The teamwork in the OR reminded him of his years as a seven-time NCAA Division I All-American competitive swimmer at UArizona, during which time he won a national title in the 400-meter individual medley.
“My athletic background has shaped how I view challenges. If you want to be the best, you have to push yourself in every way and understand how to regroup after things go wrong,” he said. “Those are personality traits that shaped me back then, and that’s something I really leaned on as an MD-PhD student.”
Before enrolling in the MD-PhD program, Dr. Thompson earned two bachelor’s degrees and a master’s degree at the University of Arizona.
“I feel a deep connection to the University of Arizona. I felt well supported and that was helpful to my success,” Dr. Thompson said. “I kept coming back for more degrees for a reason.”