More than 200 aspiring physicians at the University of Texas Medical Branch soon will learn where they will continue their medical training. Friday, March 15 is Match Day, the day that fourth-year medical students across America learn where they will be residents.

At UTMB, the life-changing news is a celebration that brings together families, friends, classmates and faculty. The atmosphere at Levin Hall is punctuated with yelps of joy, the flicker of camera flashes, beaming smiles and tears of joy. There are some short speeches by UTMB executives congratulating the students on their achievements and some words of praise from professors. 

But, in the end, the focus is on the contents of the envelopes that specifies each student’s destination for his or her residency training.

“This is always an exciting day for medical students. After four, and sometimes more, years of dedicated study, they learn where the next phase of their life as physicians will begin,” said Dr. Danny O. Jacobs, executive vice president, provost and dean of the UTMB School of Medicine. “I think what Sir Winston Churchill wrote may be applicable – ‘Now, this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.’”

Before Match Day, students spend the fall and winter visiting and interviewing at potential institutions. Then they submit their preferences in their chosen specialty as well as a location to a national centralized matching service. 

At 11 a.m. in Levin Hall at UTMB in Galveston, the fourth-year students waiting to have their name called must make sure that they have at least one dollar on hand because they are expected to place the money into a basket when they go onstage to collect their envelope. Faculty members call out the names at random. The very last student called gets to claim the basket full of money donated by the students — a consolation of sorts for enduring the agonizing wait; the next to the last claims the prize contributed by UTMB faculty.

Upon receiving their envelope, some students rush back to be with their spouse, or be surrounded by proud parents, or classmates, or a faculty member or all of them.  Couples often wait until they both have their envelopes, opening them simultaneously to learn if they will be residents in the same city or state.  

“It is the ultimate real life culmination of dreams realized as each student, one by one, opens the envelope,” said Dr. Lauree Thomas, UTMB’s associate dean of admissions and student affairs. “It signifies yet another beginning on their journey to becoming a well-trained physician.”

UTMB Match Day by the numbers:

Class size – 219

Females – 95

Males - 124

Harris County - 37

Houston - 29

Galveston County - 5

Time - 11 a.m.

Date - March 15