Match Day At Rutgers Produces Medical Residencies and Two Marriage Proposals

Match Day At Rutgers Produces Medical Residencies and Two Marriage Proposals

Some new medical residents try to balance medical career plans with romantic dreams

Third-year NJMS medical student Enid Sun tearfully receiving marriage proposal from graduating NJMS student Israel Saramago
Third-year NJMS student Enid Sun tearfully receiving marriage proposal from graduating NJMS student Israel Saramago during annual Match Day ceremonies.
Photo: Jeff Tolvin

'Residency is such a very intense time that I think a lot of program directors actually prefer people who are already in relationships because in some ways they are more stable.  If you’re in a relationship with someone who is in medicine, they understand what you are going through maybe a little bit better.'
 
– James M. Hill, associate dean for student affairs, NJMS  
 

"March Madness" descended on Rutgers ‘ medical school campuses in Newark and New Brunswick on March 20. In addition to graduating students there learning where they will be starting their careers as physicians, a pair of marriage proposals added to the drama in front of hundreds of cheering friends and family.

During “Match Day” ceremonies at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School (NJMS) in Newark, graduating student Israel Saramago took to the dais to formally propose on bended knee to his girlfriend, third-year student Enid Sun. "Oh my God, I'm going to throw up," Sun blurted into a microphone, before embracing Saramago in tears and saying "Yes."

At the same time in New Brunswick, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School (RWJMS) student Ashnoo Nanavati, already ecstatic with her match to the Medical University of South Carolina to train as a psychiatry resident, discovered her boyfriend, Brian Kempf, down on one knee with a ring in hand.  Nanavati said “Yes!” with no hesitation and the couple quickly began planning their move to Charleston.

The romantic twists have brought new meaning to "Match Day," an annual ritual when medical students across the country simultaneously open envelopes telling them which of the many residency programs they have applied to has accepted them. Students who are romantically involved have the option to "Couples Match" in order to simultaneously pursue their medical careers and their relationships.

“Match Day” overall was a cause for celebration at NJMS, with 178 graduates, and RWJMS, with 129 graduates. Both bested the 94 percent national average for admission to residency.

“The majority of our students doing this put the relationship first,” said James M. Hill, associate dean for student affairs at NJMS who helps guide students through the Match Day process. “Occasionally people will have a conflict where maybe the best thing they think for their career may not be the best thing for their relationship.”

The road to Match Day began about a year ago when medical students chose which residency programs they wanted to pursue. Based on their interviews, they then developed a priority list of their choices in January. Simultaneously, the residency programs compiled their lists of the students they wanted. The lists were fed into an algorithm managed by the National Medical Resident Program (NMRP) and the results, or matches, ushered forth on Match Day.

For a couples match, the algorithm had twice the data to process.

Students Praba Boominathan, of Belle Mead, and Rich Denicola, of Oradell, who were paired during orientation and started dating a year later, decided to pursue their residency applications as a couple right from the start.

“The whole interview season was trying to get the interviews in the same city in the same school,” said Denicola, who wants to become a gastroenterologist.

 Praba Boominathan and Rich Denicola
Praba Boominathan of Belle Mead and Rich Denicola of Oradell applied to match as a couple and received their first choices for residencies -- 150 miles apart in Connecticut and Pennsylvania.
Photo: Rick Remington

“So we essentially applied all across the country -- California, down South, Texas,” said Boominathan, who wants to become an anesthesiologist.

While Denicola got interviews in California and Boominathan got interviews in Tennessee, their partners were shut out in both states. So the couple decided to eliminate those states altogether.

Early this year, the couple submitted their list to NMRP with 15 residency programs for Boominathan and 18 for Denicola. They decided to make their top choices their preferred program professionally, even though they were over a hundred miles apart. The remaining choices were in close geographic proximity.

“We found it would probably be in both of our best interests if we put our number 1’s as our true number 1’s and didn’t compromise anything,” said Boominathan.

“And basically try not to have any regrets about not choosing the program you really wanted,” added Denicola. “And we think we’ll be okay as a couple.”

Pooja Pandit, of Livingston, and Baturin, of Cherry Hill,
Pooja Pandit of Livingston and Brian Baturin of Cherry Hill also applied as a couple for medical residencies and were both accepted by Brown University. 
Photo: Rick Remington
Pooja Pandit, of Livingston, and Brian Baturin, of Cherry Hill, on the other hand, both wanted to enter internal medicine residencies at university-run programs and deliberately limited their lists to specific locations. “We have 30 combinations which is apparently the least they have ever had for Couples Match students here,” Pandit said.

And the results?

Bucking the odds, Denicola and Boominathan were both accepted at their top choices. Denicola will perform his residency at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia, Boominathan 150 miles away at Yale-New Haven Hospital. Baturin and Pandit won their second choice, the Brown University residency program.

Applying as a couple, Hill believes, may have its advantages.

“Residency is such a very intense time that I think a lot of program directors actually prefer people who are already in relationships because in some ways they are more stable,” he explained. “If you’re in a relationship with someone who is in medicine, they understand what you are going through maybe a little bit better. Students have told us that when program directors found out that they were in a couples relationship, they were very positive about that.”

NJMS has no way of tracking whether couples who applied together stay together, but based on anecdotal information the results are positive.

“We hear from students that they got married and had children,” he said. “They send us pictures of their children over the years.”


For media inquiries, contact Rick Remington at remingr@ucm.rutgers.edu or 973-972-7276.