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After learning through a pandemic, Syracuse medical students celebrate Match Day

Ellen Abbott
Students at Upstate Medical University in Syracuse celebrate Match Day, where they learn where they will continue their training

The challenge of learning to become a doctor, and the increased stress on the medical profession due to the pandemic hasn’t turned off interest in the field.

Every year, graduating medical students from Upstate Medical University in Syracuse gather for Match Day, to find out where they’ll continue their journey to become doctors or medical professionals.

It’s often a festive scene, hugs with family and friends, phone calls and screeches of joy. But this group is special.

"This class is a class that learned how to become a doctor in the middle of the pandemic," said Dr. Lawrence Chin, dean of the College of Medicine at Upstate.

In a job that for many involves lots of human interaction, it was a struggle to give students the same experience, but virtually.

“They had to be resourceful, they had to be, not just hard working, they had to figure out how to learn in the middle of the pandemic when everything was remote,” said Chin. “And really their ingenuity was amazing."

Tiffany Mateo, an OB-GYN grad heading to a residency on Long Island, agreed that learning virtually is not the same as learning in person.

Ellen Abbott
Upstate Medical University graduate Nate Mercer shows off his match letter, showing where he will continue his training

"We did a lot of simulations which helped us learn, even though we weren’t around patients as much,” Mateo said. “So we did simulations and I still feel like after a few months we had a good understanding of how to be medical students and still protect ourselves from the pandemic."

Despite those challenges, interest in medical school has grown tremendously.

“I do think the pandemic boosted things 25, in some cases 50 percent, and not just as physicians, but the public health program, interest in being a physician assistant,” Chin said.

Nate Mercer, heading to New York University in his quest to become an orthopedic surgeon, agreed.

"You have the opportunity to help so many people, have the opportunity to affect people’s lives in a positive way, and I think people are drawn to that, especially the times we are in now,” Mercer said. “So it’s definitely competitive for a lot of reasons, and becoming more so."