College of Medicine Match Day Ceremony Applauds 158 Seniors Fanning out Across the Country to Improve the World

By Linda Satter

In a switch back to the live ceremonies of earlier years, albeit with masks to comply with UAMS policy, most of the Class of 2022 gathered Friday morning in the partial open-air pavilion at Heifer International headquarters in Little Rock. At precisely 11 a.m., they and other seniors across the country simultaneously learned through emails which residency program they “matched” to, and where they will spend the next three to seven years of their medical education.

That was also when 15 of the seniors who chose to participate virtually announced their matches to the group from remote locations, and then those gathered in person were called forward in groups of 10 to accept sealed envelopes containing their matches. They walked across the stage one at a time, ripping open the envelopes, briefly removing their masks and announcing their matches to thunderous applause.

Some had skipped looking at the email beforehand, so they learned where they were going at the same time as their classmates did.

Each UAMS senior could invite up to four people to attend in person. In addition to the live audience, others watched the event as it was livestreamed through the college website.

In 2020 and 2021, pandemic restrictions forced college seniors to make their announcements from private homes, many while surrounded by friends, family, pets – and lots of balloons and banners — as faculty members emceed from a UAMS auditorium.

Through the National Resident Matching Program (NRMP), seniors apply in the fall before graduation to dozens of programs, then interview with several of them. While interviews are traditionally held in person, since COVID they have been held via Zoom. Then in early March, seniors each send a ranked list of their choices to the NRMP. The residency programs also submit a list of preferred candidates, and an NRMP computer, using an algorithm, reconciles the lists as best as possible.

Margaret May-Martin learns that she matched with a psychiatry residency at UAMS.

Margaret May-Martin learns that she matched with a psychiatry residency at UAMS.Evan Lewis

Seniors learned throughout this week if they had “matched” with one of their choices, but didn’t know which program they matched with until Match Day. Of the 143 UAMS students who participated in the match, 14 didn’t match initially. Throughout the week, though, 13 of those so-called transitional students found a position through the Supplemental Offer and Acceptance (SOAP) program, and one obtained a research position. They can then try to match with a residency program again next year.

In addition to those who matched through the NRMP, 14 received residencies through early matches and one received a research position, for a total of 158 seniors who will become doctors of medicine upon their graduation in May.

“We are so delighted, after all you’ve been working through, that we’re able to celebrate here today,” College of Medicine Dean Susan Smyth, M.D., Ph.D., told the class from the stage. On behalf of the college faculty, she said, “I wish each and every one of you all of the very best as you continue to move through the next phases of your career.”

The 143 UAMS seniors who matched through the NRMP competed alongside 47,675 applicants nationwide for 36,277 residency positions. Nationwide, 34,075 matched and 8,474 failed to match.

Sara Tariq, M.D., associate dean for student affairs, told the crowd that 76 seniors in the UAMS Class of 2022 will remain in Arkansas for their residencies, while 81 will go off to 34 different states to complete their residencies.

Tariq said that 48% of the UAMS seniors received residencies in a primary care specialty – internal medicine, pediatrics, Med-Peds, family medicine and OB/GYN.

Sara Tariq, M.D., associate dean for student affairs in the College of Medicine, addresses seniors from the stage.

Sara Tariq, M.D., associate dean for student affairs in the College of Medicine, addresses seniors from the stage.Evan Lewis

While the majority of the Class of 2022 are traditional students, they also included some nontraditional students who had previous careers or participated in a dual degree program.

Paula McClain, who has been the class president throughout the four-year program, is one such nontraditional student who is married with three children.

Asked how she did it, she replied, “I have no idea.”

Now 42 and headed into a radiation oncology residency at UAMS, the former middle school and high school biology and chemistry teacher who also worked as a researcher at the Arkansas Biosciences Institute, added, “Time is going to pass whether you’re pursuing your dreams or not.”

Although McClain has an apartment in Little Rock, she and her husband, Jimmy, who have three college-age children, actually live in Kennett, Missouri, just across the Arkansas border. McClain grew up in Forrest City, and her mother traveled from there to Little Rock to join in the Match Day event.

McClain said she applied to some out-of-state residency programs, but UAMS was her first choice.

Another nontraditional student, Nicholas Shumate, is headed toward a psychiatry residency at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston – his top choice.

Shumate, 37, was an oil and gas attorney at a big firm in Houston when his grandmother, who lived in Arkansas, was diagnosed with cancer. He relocated to Arkansas for a couple of months, then after she died realized his legal career “just didn’t mean anything to me anymore.”

He said he turned toward medicine as a career because “I decided that if I was going to do something that was a lot of work, I was going to do something that was a lot more meaningful.”

Senior William Mitchell of Little Rock and his wife, Aly Mitchell, a speech language pathologist, were thrilled that he matched with his first choice: an integrated thoracic surgery residency at NYP Hospital at the Columbia University Medical Center in New York City, near his wife’s family in New Jersey. Aly Mitchell said their careers are complementary because “I can just follow him anywhere. There are careers in pathology everywhere.”

Among the other budding doctors at UAMS who don’t fit the traditional mold are identical twins Bukola Odeniyi and Dolapo Adejumobi, nee Odeniyi, who began a dual M.D/PhD program at UAMS in 2014 – four years earlier than the rest of their graduating class.

Now 29, the twins moved to Arkansas in 2004 after immigrating to Los Angeles from Lagos, Nigeria, in 2001 with their parents and an older brother, in search of better career and educational opportunities.

Bukola and Dolapo were 21 when they filled two of the four slots available in UAMS’ dual degree program in August 2014 after graduating from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock as Donaghey Scholars.

At that time, Dolapo wanted to be a pediatrician and had a research interest in pharmacology, while Bukola wanted to be a surgeon and was interested in immunology research.

Now, Dolapo wants to be a family medicine physician, while Bukola is interested in emergency medicine. And in the last year, Dolapo dropped her pursuit of the Ph.D. degree altogether, while Bukola has pursued hers – though now she is focused on pharmacogenomics research.

Identical twins Bukola Odeniyi and Dolapo Adejumobi head off to different parts of the country for their residencies.

Identical twins Bukola Odeniyi and Dolapo Adejumobi head off to different parts of the country for their residencies.

Though they are as close as ever — with Dolapo’s more bubbly and talkative nature balancing out Bukola’s calm persona even in high-stress situations — the twins didn’t even apply to residencies in the same cities, except for both listing UAMS among their options.

“We have reached a place where we are ready to diverge,” Dolapo said.

And diverge they will. Dolapo will be heading off to the University of Texas-Southwestern Medical School in Dallas for her family medicine residency, while Bukola goes to Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh for her emergency medicine residency.

 “We’ve always worked together because we’ve been successful that way, but it’s time to spread our wings,” Bukola said.

“Our bond really can’t be broken,” Dolapo said, prompting a happy nod from Bukola, who noted that no matter how many miles separate them, they regularly talk on the phone and don’t feel apart in their hearts.

 The twins opted for a more intimate Match Day gathering at home instead of attending the in-person ceremony.