Med school celebrates another successful Match Day

It was a Friday, just before noon, and the large, crowded space on the second floor of the student union at Campbell University fell silent. 

The open area, moments before noisy with talk and laughter, was filled with graduating medical students and their families. Now, those students, sitting at tables and holding sealed, white envelopes emblazoned with their names, sat quietly. 

Surrounded by friends and family, they waited.

The envelopes contained a one-page note, titled “2024 Match Results,” and disclosed the name of the institution and program in which the new doctors will serve their respective residencies. 

A countdown and drumroll interrupted the nervous silence.  

The students, more than 100, together opened the envelopes, leaving behind any lingering apprehension. Time, now, to celebrate. To pick up from the table black markers and Campbell orange placards and to announce, amid hugs, cheers and applause, their next destinations. 

Apprehension transforming to joy, excitement. Challenges taken and challenges met.

Meghan Nunnally, who is returning home to northern Virginia, will serve her residency at Inova Fairfax Hospital, where she’ll work as an OB/GYN. She and her family couldn’t stop smiling. That sentiment, that feeling, was ubiquitous.

Match Day has become a universal event, held the third Friday each March, in this case March 15. It was a particularly special day for Campbell’s Jerry M. Wallace School of Osteopathic Medicine, which held its first in-person Match Day since 2019.  

“An awesome day,” said Dr. Brian Kessler, dean of the medical school.

To land a residency appointment, graduating medical students apply to multiple hospital systems, and earlier in the week they learned whether they had a match. That match, however, was unknown until Friday’s ceremony.  

“There’s certain days in the careers of deans and faculty and staff that we really enjoy,” Kessler said. “One of them is when you first come to med school, that’s really an exciting moment.”

And the annual “white coat,” ceremony, when students don their white jackets. When their journey begins. 

Then Match day, when that first journey ends in preparation for the next. 

“We’re just so proud of you being able to go on to really envision what you want to become. That, we hope, we made a little difference in your lives. This is such a special day, because this really culminates all the work you’ve done for four years … all that hard work toward what you want to do, as a profession.

“We want to train good, competent physicians, who can go on and change people’s lives,” Kessler continued. “What I ask each and every one of you when I see you at graduation, is that you embody some of the spirit and the attitude of what we’ve taught you, in terms of professionalism, in what you do in the next step in your career.

“Be the professionals we know that you are. And what I would ask each and every one of you is to continue to teach, continue to learn and to continue to love the profession. …”

All of Campbell’s 152 graduating medical students were placed in a residency program. Fifty-one — 34 percent — will serve their residencies in North Carolina, including Steven Kerr, who’s headed East Carolina University (ECU) Health, and Anisa Rose Eshraghi, who’s going to the medical center at Duke University.

Kerr, from upstate New York, came to North Carolina with the military. He’ll specialize in emergency medicine at ECU.

“I’m very happy,” he said as friends and classmates stopped to congratulate him. “It was my No. 1 choice. I was a Marine stationed at Camp Lejeune … and I never left.”

Eshraghi, too, got her first choice. She said Campbell “is like a family. It felt really warm. I felt like I would be supported … that all aspects of life would be supported. It’s a place that supports … your whole being.”

Virginia and South Carolina will each be home to 13 new Campbell residents. Forty of the graduating students will specialize in family medicine and 33 in internal medicine. Other residency disciplines among the students include, for example, pediatrics, dermatology, plastic surgery and psychiatry.

“Not to take away from graduation, because that’s very important for an institution, but I think this is really for the students,” said Dr. David L. Tolentino, associate dean for Clinical Affairs for the Jerry M. Wallace School of Osteopathic Medicine.

This is where they’re going to be for the next three to seven years. Match Day is the big day for the students.”

Including future doctors Dillon Pham and Alysa Modi, among many others.

For Pham, his match with Harbor-University of California at Los Angeles Medical Center translates into a sort of homecoming. He earned a bachelor’s degree from UCLA, where he majored in biochemistry and minored in global health. 

Pham was born in Asheville. At 7, Pham’s family moved to southern California.

“I am from both North Carolina and California,” said Pham, who will specialize in family medicine.

Why Campbell?

“Interviewing at Campbell, and just seeing the culture and the community, everybody helps each other out,” Pham said. “That was a big deal for me.”

Modi, of Virginia Beach, is headed to Virginia Tech Carilion in Roanoke, Virginia, her top choice.

“Once I actually came here and got a chance to talk with all the faculty, it was just one of those things where I had a really good connection with them,” Modi said. 

Many instructors in Campbell’s medical school, she said, are active physicians. That’s just one of the aspects that drew her to Campbell. That played a role in her success and helped clear her pathway toward her residency in internal medicine.

Real-life examples, she said.

“It elevated our learning so much, because it wasn’t, ‘Oh, this is what it looks like.’ It was, ‘I’ve seen this patient three times, and here’s all the things I’ve seen. It makes such a huge difference. There’s something to be said about that clinical aspect. It’s hard to put your finger on, but it really adds so much more to your education.”