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‘Match Day’ a hot event for almost-doctors at U.

Grads learn where they will do their residencies

SHARE ‘Match Day’ a hot event for almost-doctors at U.

Chris Sadler and Wyatt Rivas will graduate from the University of Utah School of Medicine May 24. Two days later, they're getting married.

In between, they have to finish their sports medicine rotations, wrap up their classwork, take some tests, do some paperwork and get ready to move — a mysterious task because, until Thursday, they didn't know where they'd be going.

Winter in Delaware is a lot different from winter in Phoenix.

The couple gathered with other soon-to-graduate medical students Thursday morning at Rice-Eccles Stadium for "Match Day," to learn where they'll do their medical residencies. They were among the lucky students who received a terse, but relief-giving, three-word e-mail Monday telling them they would, indeed, be employed come summer: "You have matched."

Becky Kroll, a single mother who waited until her kids had grown to go to medical school, got the same e-mail. Students who did not receive one will now take part in a process called "the scramble" to secure unfilled residencies around the country.

"It's been a little nerve-racking," says Kroll, who moved to Salt Lake City from Boise to pursue her dream of being a family practice doctor. Her wait was perhaps less stressful, she notes, because family practice is not a "super-competitive" field these days. Still, she was thrilled to match and anxious to find out where she'll live for the next few years.

"The Match" is a process that takes weeks and careful planning. Soon-to-graduate medical students apply to the residency programs they might like to participate in and hope to be asked for an interview, a sign that the program's interested in them as well. Then they rank the programs and wait to see if the programs return the favor.

Kroll, for instance, interviewed at nine programs, then ranked seven. She knows someone in radiation oncology who applied to 30 and interviewed at 16.

Rivas, who's pursuing emergency medicine, and Sadler, who's going to be a pediatrician, applied to about 40 programs, interviewed at 13 and ranked about 10.

Kroll entered medical school at the same time her youngest child, Krister, was beginning college. And she's shared her crucial fourth year with son Nick, who's now completing his first year at the medical school. Her daughter, Karina, plans to move with her wherever she lands for her residency. Before then, Kroll needs to wrap up school and sell the house she bought in Salt Lake City.

The match process for a couple like Sadler and Rivas is, if anything, even more stressful. It's a separate process where their applications are linked and they both need to secure a spot in an area to make it work. Since they're after different specialties, a couple's match means programs also have to communicate with each other. "I'm interested in him. Are you considering her?" And it takes compromise.

Sadler bypassed a couple of great pediatric opportunities because there was no emergency-med option for Rivas. He returned the favor with other towns.

"It was hard to make our list," Sadler said. "His first few choices were not the same as my first few choices. We went back and forth, with lots of compromising. But we came up with 10 places we'd be happy to be going."

Sadler, who grew up in Kaysville, and Rivas, from Logan, met their first day of medical school, but were not immediately interested in each other. They started hanging out and studying together in their second year. They've been together ever since.

Their ranked list of possibilities covers the map, stretching as far west as Fresno, south to Phoenix and Nashville, then north through Minnesota and eastward to Albany and Rochester. The future is a mystery for which there's only one cure: The envelope, please.

Kroll's heading to Salina, Calif., which was her first choice. Sadler and Rivas learned Thursday they'll be calling Springfield, Mass., and the Baystate Medical Center program home.

E-mail: lois@desnews.com