Last Thursday marked the first day of spring and the
opening day of the NCAA men's
basketball tournament, but the drama and new beginnings
were not reserved for the changing season
and thrills on the hard court — especially for a new
crop of doctors.
Most of the 102 students in the School of Medicine's
class of 2008 gathered in the Turner
Concourse that day to continue Johns Hopkins' annual
tradition of having fourth-year medical students
open their residency letters in the presence of classmates,
professors and loved ones. While March
20 is Match Day for medical schools all across the country,
some students elsewhere go online to find
out where they will start their careers as physicians.
The National Residency Matching Program pairs the
wishes of the students with the needs of
hospitals and medical centers nationwide. The process
begins with students deciding on their
specialization. Then they make a rank-ordered list of
medical centers and hospitals to which they'd
like to go, complete lengthy paperwork and finally
interview on site.
The process dates back to 1952 and came at the request
of medical students who wanted a fair
and impartial transition to the graduate medical education
experience necessary for all physicians.
Nirav Kapadia, David Nichols and
Photo by Will Kirk / HIPS
Before the formal part of Thursday's event, those
gathered ate, mingled and enjoyed a live
guitar performance and the vocal abilities of the
Note-A-Chords, the School of Medicine's a cappella
Thomas Koenig, the School of Medicine's associate dean
for student affairs, and other
administrators presented opening remarks, welcoming
everyone to the event that was hosted by the
Development and Alumni Relations Office and Johns Hopkins
Medical Student Society.
"First off, congratulations to you all for surviving
the experience," Koenig said, "wonderful,
bizarre and idiosyncratic that it is."
At the end of the introductions, Koenig instructed the
students to pick up their letters and a
glass of champagne to toast.
Anxious students huddled closer together and counted
down from 10. The word "zero" sparked
the envelope opening, which was followed by a lengthy pause
as students read their letter's contents.
Next came huge smiles, hugs and several bursts of "you got
it!" and "woo-hoo!"
Among the smiling faces was Jonathan Etheridge's.
Etheridge's decision to attend medical school followed
his experience as an Air Force flight
medic in Afghanistan after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
With other medical personnel, Etheridge flew
to the wounded in C-130 military cargo planes rigged as
Paulette Grey, Denise Muschett,
Monique James, Afshan Nanji and Amber Mock
Photo by Will Kirk / HIPS
"In the early days of the conflict we would land in
the desert at night with night vision goggles.
We'd stay on the desert floor for only five minutes because
of the danger," he said.
He helped tend to as many as 92 injured soldiers
during nine-hour flights to German-based
hospitals. Although Etheridge has since left the military,
one of his brothers has completed two tours
of duty in Iraq and another is about to be deployed there.
His wife, Morgan, works as a cardiac
intensive care nurse at Johns Hopkins. Etheridge's first
choice was a residency in emergency medicine
at the University of Cincinnati. He got it.
Etheridge said he knew the interview went well, and
that coming from Johns Hopkins put him in
a good position, but he never wanted to get overly
"You know that you have a good chance, but you just
don't know until you open the letter. We
are all going after top-tier schools, and it's very
competitive," he said. "I'm really happy that I'm where
I wanted to be."
Nearby, Delphine Robotham also brandished a big
Robotham sought a pediatrics residency at Johns
Hopkins, following in the path of her father, a
pediatrician at Johns Hopkins for more than 20 years.
"My earliest memories include going to Hopkins with
him on my days off from school and walking
around the pediatric wards," she said.
In her years as a medical student, she joined and
eventually was president of the Pediatric
Interest Group, an organization that works with faculty
members, residents and the community to
assist fellow medical students who are interested in a
career in pediatrics. She said she chose The
Johns Hopkins Hospital as her first choice not only because
of family ties but also because "it is
where I first fell in love" with medicine and came to
admire the many physicians she knows who
She, too, got her wish. She admits she did have an
uneasy feeling in her stomach before she
opened the letter.
Former Air Force flight medic
Jonathan Etheridge and his wife, Morgan
Photo by Will Kirk / HIPS
"I'm relieved," she said, taking in a breath. "This is
so exciting. I'm so happy to stay at Johns
Hopkins and with such a great program."
For Kirsten Baca, the ceremony culminated as she had
hoped, with an acceptance letter from
Massachusetts General Hospital.
Although she likes Boston and the people she met at
the hospital, she admits that other places
had their appeal, too. She also had to factor in her
husband, Andrew, and 11-month-old son, Henry.
"It was hard to rank the programs. You want to put
three or four as your top choice," said Baca,
whose residency will be in anesthesiology. "It's a big
decision, as this is where you are going to spend
perhaps the next 10 to 20 years of your life. But I'm very
pleased and excited. We are going to a
In keeping with a new Match Day tradition, begun last
year, a map of the United States was put
on a pedestal, and students were asked to use pins with
their names on them to mark the spot of their
residency. Pins were placed from coast to coast, but a
thick cluster formed in Maryland. Thirty-two
percent of the students will remain at Johns Hopkins,
taking up residencies at The Johns Hopkins
Hospital or the Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center. The
top-three specialties represented were
internal medicine, pediatrics and ophthalmology.