At precisely 11 a.m. Thursday, March 18, more than 155 nervous and excited fourth-year students at the University of Colorado School of Medicine snatched up envelopes holding details of their future.
Gasps, shouts, hugs and tears followed as they opened their envelopes at the Grand Hyatt Denver Grand Ballroom in downtown Denver and learned where they will continue their education as residents.
It was Match Day 2010.
"We're staying here," Ben Mendoza exclaimed as he celebrated with fellow med student Carl Meredith. "We're staying here!"
Mendoza and his wife, Jordan, had just opened their envelopes – at the same moment – compared notes and cried. Mendoza will be serving his residency at St. Joseph's Hospital; his wife will be at University of Colorado Hospital. They get to stay in the same city. They get to be together.
Every year at a predetermined time, students across the country learn simultaneously which hospital will educate them for the next three to seven years. Some will head into family practice, some to neurosurgery. Others are lined up for the military or for research-oriented academic programs. Couples, who've chosen to match together, found out where their next home will be.
Here's how the process works: The medical students, who had been applying and interviewing for weeks, ranked the places they'd like to go. The residency programs ranked the applicants. The computer-generated matches are then made by the National Resident Matching Program.
Most students were joined at Match Day by family and friends who at times were even more exuberant than the students themselves.
Meredith, who will be serving his residency at Swedish Medical Center in family practice, brought his younger brother along to open his envelope for him.
"He is the only person I could trust to do something like this," he said. "I definitely needed him here. Otherwise I would have just stared at the envelope for 45 minutes."
Meredith is ecstatic because Swedish was his first choice. It's where he was born. Vividly recalling his own Match Day in the 1970s, Medical School Dean Richard Krugman, M.D., shared his experience with the 2010 class as they waited for the clock to strike 11. He said that when he opened his envelope, it read University of Colorado School of Medicine. His wife looked him and said, "You promised me water." Krugman replied, "Don't worry. It's temporary."
Although his placement did not end up being temporary, Krugman stressed to the graduates that – whether or not they like their placement – this is a start to a new adventure, a step in their lives they'll never forget.