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Reflecting on their growth during the pandemic, medical students take the next steps in their careers

VCU medical students recently received their residency placements as part of an annual celebration before graduation.

Dozens of students holding papers and smiling The Class of 2024 learned their residency matches on Friday, March 15. (VCU School of Medicine)

By Laura Ingles and Grace McOmber

Backdropped by colorful lights and glimmering disco ball balloons, the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine Class of 2024 filed into The National theater on Friday, March 15, excitedly anticipating the 2024 National Resident Matching Program (NRMP) results.

The NRMP pairs qualified graduates of medical schools with hospitals, where they will continue specialized clinical training in their field.

Including early matches, the Class of 2024’s overall placement rate is 99%. Of these students, 59 graduates will stay in Virginia for their residencies and 37 will work with VCU Health.

“As a state school, it is really nice to know that 59 of you will be sticking around to serve the community,” Associate Dean of the VCU School of Medicine Nicole Deiorio, M.D., said to the crowd.

Arturo Saavedra, M.D., Ph.D., dean of VCU School of Medicine, was all smiles when he took the stage on his first Match Day since arriving at VCU in 2023. He commended the soon-to-be graduates for their accomplishments, offered a special thanks to their parents for raising exceptional future doctors and encouraged them to reflect on those who supported them throughout medical school.

“You will learn much more during residency, but you will always remember your faculty and family, especially during the hard times,” Saavedra said.

Moments before noon, among their families and friends, students ripped open the envelopes containing the results they’d been working toward for four years.

Jean Wu, Psychiatry

Jean Wu, chair of the Medical Student Government’s Wellness Committee, described the Class of 2024 as the “guinea pig class” because of curriculum changes, like shifting to a mostly virtual education during their first year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This was also the first class to take the revised Step 1 Exam, the first part of the medical licensing exam, which was shifted to a pass-fail format in 2022 to alleviate student stress.

“As a class, I feel like we had many unique challenges,” Wu said. “I’m really proud of how our class has been able to overcome all of these firsts and I have so much respect for my peers and their resilience.”

Wu says the pandemic, however, highlighted the importance of wellness in medical school, a shift that Wu believes has contributed to an increase in popularity of psychiatry as a field. Wu joined the Wellness Committee in 2020, inspired by her own history of overcoming an eating disorder, which led to a passion for helping others find ways to take care of themselves.

“We can’t show up for patients if we can’t take care of ourselves,” Wu said.

Wu, who is originally from Los Angeles, says she was torn between staying in Richmond and returning to her home state. She ultimately matched into VCU’s psychiatry program, adding that she is excited to stay with her partner, a fellow medical student, and the friends she has made in the city.

“Mixed emotions is how I would capture how I felt that day,” Wu said. “Over the last four years, VCU and the greater Richmond community has become my home. I’m incredibly grateful to continue my training with VCU psychiatry.”


Two men standing with a paper, smiling

Faizaan Khan and Panth Doshi both matched into VCU's Anesthesiology Residency Program via the Competency-Based Graduation Program. (Left to right: Panth Doshi and Faizaan Khan) (VCU School of Medicine)

Faizaan Khan, Anesthesiology

Faizaan Khan was one of six third year medical students attending the 2024 Match Day ceremony. As part of the Competency-Based Graduation Program (CBG), Khan and his cohort are on an accelerated curriculum track and will graduate after three years instead of four.

“Becoming a doctor is something I’ve worked towards for years,” Khan said. “From high school to undergrad to medical school, and now I’m finally one step closer to my goal.”

CBG students select one of seven available specialties prior to joining the program and are matched with a preceptor in their chosen field during their M2 year. Students are then ranked to match into VCU or VCU-affiliated residency programs. Khan, an aspiring anesthesiologist, spearheaded the specialty’s inclusion in the CBG with his best friend and roommate, Panth Doshi. The pair will be the first anesthesiology graduates of the program.

“We first met in our freshman year dorm hall and have gone through undergrad and medical school together,” Khan said. “We have been supporting and pushing each other and I’m so excited that we will continue together as co-residents.”

This summer, Khan starts the Anesthesiology Residency Program at VCU School of Medicine. Graduating a year earlier than his third-year peers, Khan says he was honored and humbled to be part of the accelerated track.

“I would tell [myself in my first year]to really enjoy every moment and appreciate your support system,” Khan said. “My family, friends and the faculty here are the reason I made it to this point.”


Woman standing near VCU sign

Carolyn May matched early into VCU's Ophthalmology Residency Program. (VCU School of Medicine)

Carolyn May, Ophthalmology

Carolyn May was one of the rare students to enter medical school with a specialty in mind and stick to it. She was open to other options during clinical rotations, she says, but when the time came to apply for residencies, she was confident in what she’d known since joining a medical mission trip called Flight for Sight in high school: she is going to be an ophthalmologist.

“I got to see this really delicate procedure that I’d never seen before,” May said of the cataract surgeries she assisted with in Mexico as a teenager. “I got to help remove their eye patch at the follow-up appointments, and I saw the amazing impact these surgeries had on the patients there.”

As a student, May says she felt fortunate to connect with mentors in the Department of Ophthalmology, and VCU's program was one of her top choices. When she and her partner — also a School of Medicine alum, and a current emergency medicine resident — opened her early match results together in her apartment at 8 a.m. on Feb. 6, they were both thrilled to see that she'll be staying in Richmond to train at VCU.

“I really feel like VCU has something special,” May said. “It has such a great patient population, and I know that the outstanding clinical training I had in medical school will continue in residency.”