The Emory Student Center was bright with energy and excitement March 17 as medical students in the Class of 2023 gathered with their peers and loved ones to find out where they had matched for their residencies.
Held the third Friday in March, Match Day is when the National Resident Matching Program releases results to medical students across the country at the same time. Emory medical students were among thousands in the U.S. to find out where they matched to start their work as resident physicians, caring for patients under the supervision of attending physicians.
Dr. Carlos del Rio, interim dean of the School of Medicine, offered students two pieces of advice before they received their matches: “I know you will take care of your patients, but I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to take care of yourselves as well as taking care of your loved ones and taking care of each other,” he said. “My second piece of advice is to take what you do seriously — but don’t take yourselves too seriously.”
Students in Emory’s MD Class of 2023 were in their first year of medical school when the COVID-19 pandemic completely altered the world. Over the past four years, these medical students have supported one another while learning to become compassionate and responsible physicians.
“You are to be commended for persevering,” said Dr. J. William Eley, the School of Medicine’s executive associate dean of medical education and student affairs. “Keep moving forward. The match represents the success of those who have matched, but also the success of the class, the staff, the faculty, the folks who wrote your letters, the deans and all the work involved.”
This year’s Match Day also introduced a new tradition to the festivities, one that has been part of other Emory celebrations, such as welcoming new undergraduate students, for decades: the Coca-Cola Toast. MD Class of 2023 President Arrix Ryce led students as they raised their Coke bottles high: “Today we toast to hard work’s payoff, and a calling to care for our communities.”
As noon and the big reveal approached, students lined up across from tables filled with envelopes, each labeled with the name of a student and holding their match inside.
After the final countdown (“5, 4, 3, 2, 1, You are matched!”), they raced forward to discover their matches — and the sense of relief that comes with knowing they have accomplished their goals and are ready to begin their careers as doctors.
Where they matched
Of the 125 Emory medical students beginning a residency in July, 39 will spend all or part of their residency training in the state of Georgia. Of those training in Georgia, 32 will begin their training at Emory; 30 will remain at Emory for their entire residency.
In addition to Emory, students will receive residency training at other prominent institutions, including Harvard University, University of Pennsylvania, University of Colorado, University of Michigan, University of Pittsburgh, Brown University, Duke University, University of North Carolina, Yale University and Vanderbilt University. Earlier this year, four students matched in ophthalmology.
The specialties chosen most frequently for their residencies were internal medicine (33), surgery (14), pediatrics (10), psychiatry (10), obstetrics/gynecology (8), orthopedic surgery (8) and anesthesiology (7).
Matched: McGaw Medical Center of Northwestern University
Arrix Ryce is originally from Birmingham, Alabama. Before attending medical school, he earned a bachelor of arts degree in religion, medicine and society and a bachelor of science degree in biochemistry and nutrition, both from the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Florida. While enrolled there, he studied abroad in the Galapagos Islands. Afterward he earned a master of science degree in social data science from the University of Oxford in England.
At Northwestern University's McGaw Medical Center, Ryce will continue his training in diagnostic and interventional radiology.
His research activities have centered on interventional radiologists’ role in the management of patients with traumatic injuries. His research has already been published in one of the specialty’s premier journals; it continues with backing from a research grant awarded to him in 2022 by the Radiological Society of North America. His grant project aims to demonstrate machine learning’s capacity to support the selection of therapies for patients with injuries caused by blunt trauma. The long-term goal is to reduce the disease burden experienced by patients with traumatic injuries.
“The School of Medicine represents a community of support,” Ryce says. “My mentors welcomed me into the community and empowered me to participate in impactful research projects, give talks at national and international meetings, publish our research findings, and even to secure my own research grant.
“My peers remind me consistently that every day is the best day to make memories and spend time with the people who bring you joy. This community has helped me grow in ways that I couldn’t have imagined, and I’m grateful for its investment in me.”
As president of the School of Medicine’s MD Class of 2023, Ryce has demonstrated leadership and skillful advocacy. Because of his personal and academic accomplishments, he was awarded an ElevateMeD scholarship for the 2022-23 academic year.
The scholarship serves to increase physician workforce diversity. The multifaceted program is designed to develop the next generation of physician leaders from African American/Black, Latinx and Native American backgrounds. In addition to a scholarship for each year remaining in their medical degree, recipients receive physician mentorship, access to peer network support, leadership development opportunities and financial management education.
Matched: Oregon Health & Science University
Cally Braun is originally from Vermont where she grew up playing outside in the Green Mountains with her three younger siblings. She chose to stay close to home for college and graduated from Dartmouth College in 2018, where she majored in anthropology and completed minors in bioethics and global health.
Having spent most of her life in New England, when she graduated college, she felt it was time to experience something new. She spent a gap year in New York City working on a grant to increase breastfeeding accessibility through the New York State Department of Health.
When it came time to make a decision about medical school, she reflects, “I was drawn to Emory for the opportunity to serve my community at a place like Grady and because the students are engaging, smart and fun. I also distinctly remember Dr. Ira Schwartz describing Emory as a school that creates physicians ‘not just for one place, but for the planet’ during my interview, and I immediately knew Emory was the right place for me.”
At Oregon Health & Science University, Braun will continue her training in obstetrics and gynecology.
She applied to Ob/Gyn residencies during a tenuous time for reproductive rights and hopes to expand understandings of reproductive justice to include caring for the safety and well-being of shared communities and the changing climate.
“Ob/Gyn patients not only are often overlooked by government policies and corporate agendas, but also are one of the most vulnerable populations to the fallout of environmental degradation,” Braun explains. “By understanding how the Anthropocene impacts pregnancy and fertility outcomes, I hope we can better appreciate the interconnectedness of humans and the planet. I am deeply grateful for my mentors at Emory, who have nourished this particular interest and helped me see myself as a leader in this work.”
Her classmates have made the medical school journey meaningful for her both personally and professionally. They are bonded through humor — sharing triumphs, mistakes and even memes — which has made the journey of becoming a physician a little easier and a lot more fun.
Braun’s activities in medical school have been guided by her interest in connecting with patients both in and out of the hospital as she learned that medicine is not limited to wards and clinics. During her first year of medical school, she was involved in the leadership of Health Students Taking Action Together (H-STAT), which later evolved into advocacy and teaching in several forms. She now is a medical student co-coordinator for the Clarkston Community Health Center.
“This work has always been a welcomed respite from the demands of medical school and has been a constant reminder of why I chose to study medicine. Each time I leave Clarkston, I feel renewed from having the opportunity to connect with my community in a meaningful way and help medical students see their very first patients, as I did a few years ago,” she says.
Braun also teaches third-year medical students about fetal heart tracings and suturing as a peer co-coordinator for the Ob/Gyn Clerkship. After recognizing biased language in her anatomy textbook, she organized and led an anti-biased language program that was incorporated into Emory’s longitudinal curriculum.
Later, she also became part of the momentum generated by her peers to include climate change and environmental health into the medical school clerkships. She is currently working on a first-of-its-kind research project investigating the impacts of climate change on pregnancy outcomes that she hopes will generate more conversation as to how to best protect patients and the planet. Finally, she is also the service chair of the Gold Humanism Honor Society and a member of Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society.
Stephanie Liu-Lam & Oliver Liu-Lam
Matched: Emory University
Stephanie Liu-Lam is originally from Cincinnati, Ohio, and attended Dartmouth College for her undergraduate degree, majoring in biology.
“Volunteering as a patient advocate in undergrad and having the ability to empower patients during vulnerable and pivotal decision-making moments in their care ultimately brought me to medicine,” she says. Before medical school, she spent a gap year in Ann Arbor, Michigan, as a clinical study coordinator researching maternal infant health.
Oliver Liu-Lam, Stephanie’s husband, is also a fourth-year medical student at Emory. “There wasn’t a ‘couples match’ system for medical school applications so we were grateful and excited to both be accepted to Emory, a program that we independently loved,” she says. They both wanted to train at a safety-net hospital like Grady and to serve refugee and immigrant populations in nearby Clarkston.
The pair was able to participate in the couples match for residency. Matching as a couple allows two residency applicants to link their rank-order lists, usually for purposes of obtaining positions in the same geographic location. “In a way it feels like we are couples matching for the second time as we applied to medical schools together! We are grateful that a system exists to support our ability to continue training in the same location and are excited to see where this next stage of training takes us,” Oliver says.
As a resident at Emory, Stephanie will continue her training in psychiatry.
“Growing up surrounded by immigrant families, I saw the importance of preventative care and longitudinal patient-physician relationships in healing communities,” says Stephanie, who arrived at medical school imagining a career in family medicine. “However, I unexpectedly fell in love with psychiatry during my third-year rotations.
“Treating psychiatric illness is intimately linked with understanding and responding to the social issues underlying each patient presentation. I witnessed patients receive comprehensive mental health treatment and subsequently interview for their first jobs, secure safe housing and restore fraught relationships with loved ones,” she continues. “This experience cultivated my passion to provide trauma-informed and culturally responsive care for communities in need as a psychiatrist.”
Originally from Hong Kong, Oliver Liu-Lam immigrated on his own at age 14 to Cincinnati, where he attended high school and met Stephanie. He completed his undergraduate degree at the University of Michigan and worked as a campus chaplain for five years, during which he walked alongside college students in their most vulnerable moments. Each encounter with his students, along with the steps taken toward healing, ultimately informed his values of advocacy and service that drove him to pursue medicine.
For his residency at Emory, Oliver will continue his training in otolaryngology–head and neck surgery.
“I was first drawn to the field by the technically challenging surgeries – resecting a mandible full of malignant tumor and repurposing a new jaw from a fibula,” he explains. “But as I explored the breadth of otolaryngology, I recognized the power and opportunity to address patients’ most pressing concerns and provide for patients what often matters most to their quality of life: the ability to hear a loved one’s voice for the first time, to share a meal at the dining room table free from pain and to have a conversation without gasping for air.” It is a field that pairs his love for problem-solving and critical thinking with the ability to create meaningful change through the work of his hands.
Caring for underserved communities
As they considered residency programs, the couple looked for programs with two priorities in mind: first, to be close to loved ones, and second, to be able to care for medically underserved populations. It was these same priorities that drew them to Emory for medical school.
“Emory’s mission and location uniquely fulfill both of those values. We both love Emory’s psychiatry and otolaryngology departments, which have provided exceptional training and unwavering support for us,” they note. Stephanie’s parents and elderly Yorkshire terrier, Hippo, live just 30 minutes away. The support and care from her family was essential to their wellness and mental health during the past four years.
Stephanie has been a coordinator with the Harriet Tubman Women’s Clinic at the Clarkston Community Health Center since her first year of medical school. The teaching clinic provides care for uninsured and underserved women. As the daughter of Taiwanese immigrants, she is passionate about improving care in language-discordant health care encounters.
In this role, she has learned to advocate for refugee patients whose health care decisions are heavily influenced by cultural and religious values. The patient navigation responsibilities of the role have been deeply meaningful. As a coordinator, Stephanie helps patients receive follow-up care and navigate the frustrating bureaucracy of the health care system to ensure that patients receive essential treatment.
“I’ve loved working with this team and engaging in creative problem-solving to get our patients care that they so desperately need. It’s infuriating and incredibly motivating to recognize that without this work, these patients would be without necessary health care,” she says.
Another one of Stephanie’s passions is working with the Nia Project, a free, comprehensive behavioral health program located at Grady that provides individual and group therapy for Black women who are survivors of interpersonal violence and suicide.
“Working with the Nia Project was like being welcomed into a family. I spent my Discovery months (and additional elective time) co-leading groups and conducting research on intimate partner violence,” she says. As a part of the Nia Project, she had the opportunity to co-lead skills-based groups, support groups and empowerment focused groups. “I cannot say enough wonderful things about my mentor, Dr. Nadine Kaslow (founder of the Nia Project), and the team of psychologists who taught me so much about psychotherapy and how to center patients and their community in this work,” says Stephanie.
Hearing colleagues’ stories of the effects of mental health stigma and barriers to care motivated Stephanie to advocate for medical student mental health and wellness during her second year of medical school. In a hierarchical field filled with long training hours where burnout is so prevalent, systemic changes toward mental health reform are imperative.
Stephanie worked with her colleague, Matthew Brown, to propose a wellness half-day policy for Emory’s clerkship curriculum where students were granted required, “no questions asked” half-days for the sole purpose of student wellness. “It’s incredibly rewarding to witness my colleagues use these half-days to be well and advocate for their needs during one of the most grueling years of medical school,” she says.
Oliver also made a personal impact at Grady and with the refugee community in Clarkston. “As a trainee at Grady and a volunteer in the Clarkston community, I had the opportunity and privilege to learn how to care for and counsel patients from underserved communities with formidable barriers to health care from my peers and mentors who are also neighbors, teachers, advocates and policy makers in the community,” he says. “I learned that providing holistic care to patients requires physicians to be holistic participants in the communities to which their patients belong.”
Other important experiences during his time at Emory include serving in the Student Curriculum Committee and the Medical Student Senate during all four years of medical school, where he was able to explore his career interest in medical education while also advocating for his classmates. He was part of a group that created and proposed a longitudinal curriculum to incorporate teaching the electronic health record in medical school. He was also involved with the Asian Pacific American Medical Student Association, assisting during interview days and mentoring Emory pre-medical students.
“The most memorable moments in medical school were those of sharing life together with my classmates: the late nights in the anatomy lab, the private messages on Zoom accidentally sent to all, the communal studying for board exams, the knowing nods given in hospital hallways, and certainly, the opening of a fateful envelope,” he says.
About this story: Writing by Rashmi Raveendran, Jen King and Elizabeth Pittman Thompson. Photos by Jack Kearse. Video by Damon Meharg.