Match Day brings good news for UIC medical students


Members of UIC’s College of Medicine Class of 2015 in Chicago had a lot to celebrate Friday — all 181 students found their match for residency programs.

It’s the first time in recent history that all students on the Chicago campus have received a placement on Match Day, when 41,000 medical students nationally compete for about 30,000 residency placements, said College of Medicine dean Dimitri Azar.

“You have to really believe that you’re going to be the best doctor that you’ll ever be,” he told students as they waited to open their envelopes at the Mid-America Club at Aon Center in downtown Chicago.

After students opened their envelopes together at 11 a.m., the crowd erupted into cheers and happy tears.

“It’s a culmination of about 12 years of hard work,” said Habib Bilfaqi, who will train in emergency medicine at Wayne State University in Detroit. “It comes down to this.”

More than 17,000 students at medical schools nationwide were matched to residencies this year through the National Resident Matching Program. Of UIC’s Chicago campus students, 39 percent will stay in Illinois for their residency programs, with the rest heading to medical centers in 28 states. The top specialties are internal medicine, emergency medicine, family medicine, pediatrics and anesthesiology.

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Rockford student Shayan Khazaei reads his match: neurology at Einstein/Montefiore Medical Center. Photo: Brian Thomas

The top five hospital placements for students from the Chicago campus were UIC, University of Chicago, University of Wisconsin, Stanford and Loyola.

Of the 44 students from the College of Medicine’s Rockford campus who matched, 20 percent will stay in Illinois and more than half in the Midwest. Nearly 60 percent matched in primary care specialties, including family medicine, internal medicine and pediatrics.

Twenty-six students at the Urbana-Champaign campus received their placements on Match Day, with nearly half staying in the Midwest to train for their residency programs. Top specialties include internal medicine, emergency medicine and neurology.

Sixteen of the 50 students from Peoria who matched Friday will train in Illinois, with half staying in the Midwest. Their top residency specialties are internal medicine, pediatrics and a combined internal medicine and pediatrics program.

Chicago campus student Alejandra Cano is thrilled to stay at UIC, matching in emergency medicine.

“All of my mentors here have really been absolutely phenomenal,” she said. “The faculty at UIC have really been interested in me as a person, a student and as a future physician. I really just feel like they’re family.”

Medical school isn’t easy for anyone, but Cano completed her rigorous coursework while having a lot of responsibilities at home. She’s a single mom to Evan, 14, and Rosie, 11. “It taught me time management and perseverance,” she said. “And that if you have a goal, go for it. I can prove to the kids that if you want something, you can achieve it.”

Jessica Kuppy was also excited to be placed at UIC. She celebrated with her sister, Joanna, a 2005 UIC College of Medicine graduate who works in pediatric critical care at Rush University Medical Center. “I like the idea of giving back and I feel like you stay really challenged as a doctor,” Kuppy said. “I like solving puzzles, and being a doctor allows you do that all day.”

Adam Gruner and Lindsay Schwartz were anxious to see their own matches, as well as each other’s. They are getting married Memorial Day weekend and wanted to match in the same city.

“We opened each other’s envelopes so when I saw UCLA, I didn’t know if we had the same match,” Schwartz said.  She did. They’ll train together in Los Angeles, Schwartz in pediatrics and Gruner in emergency medicine.

“It’s always been a dream,” she said.

David Lewandoski was happy to match at one of his top choices, University of Wisconsin Madison.  “I know I’ll get a lot of good experience there,” he said.

Abraham Qavi, UIC College of Medicine at Urbana-Champaign, Match Day  2015

Urbana medical student Abe Qavi shares the news: Barnes-Jewish Hospital, St. Louis, Missouri. Photo: Chantelle Davis

His father, Doug Lewandowski, is director of UIC’s Center for Cardiovascular Research. “I’ve been on the faculty since David was in sixth grade, and I didn’t think I’d be sitting at Match Day in 2015,” said Doug Lewandowski, professor of physiology and biophysics. “I’m proud of him.”

Ayodele Oke matched in anesthesiology at one of her top choices — Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. “I can’t stop smiling,” she said. “I’ve wanted to help others since I was little.”

Oke expects her residency program to be an intense experience but thinks UIC has prepared her well. “I’m ready to use my hands and start working,” she said.

Zhen Wei Mei is excited to stay in the city, training in pathology at the University of Chicago. He hopes to eventually teach medical education. “I want to help mentor students, foster their growth, help them attain their goals,” he said. “Working with students keeps you up to date.”

He won’t forget UIC and the friends he’s made. “I’m going to miss these guys,” Mei said. “People here are so down to earth, and we all have a great sense of community.

“I loved it here.”

– Nicole Cardos contributed to this story.

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