A Virtual Match Day fills the void for TCOM students

By Steven Bartolotta

Match Day 2020 Web

The four-year odyssey through medical school for Texas College of Osteopathic students reaches a climax when inside a sealed envelope the specialty, location and launch of their career is revealed.

It’s known as Match Day, a celebratory event that normally sees over 200 students come together with family, friends and faculty members.

The happy crowd swells to over 1,000 people on most Match Days, but for the Class of 2020 their chance to revel with family and friends was cancelled because of the worldwide spread and pandemic of COVID-19.

“We knew as a Health Science Center that we had to take the lead and cancel large in-person events like Match Day in order to protect our students, faculty, staff and the larger community,” said Frank Filipetto, Dean of the Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine. “There is no questioning that decision now that we see how the COVID-19 crisis is developing. However, it doesn’t make it any easier telling over 200 students, their family and loved ones that we couldn’t celebrate as a collective family.”

Not celebrating was not an option, but how to do you fill that massive void in only five days? TCOM faculty and staff quickly went to work to transform Match Day into a virtual celebration. The plan would include videos of the Class of 2020, the award winners from the class and a virtual map of match locations. A dedicated webpage and social media would be the epicenter of “Virtual Match Day”

Such a thing had never been attempted, and there wasn’t time for much testing.  Students were encouraged to share their pictures and videos throughout the day and the use of social media brought the excitement right to their living room.

“Match Day, despite being virtual, was the best day of my life as a medical student,” said TCOM student Grace Pham. “Nothing can kill the excitement and pride of being affirmed as a future physician in the form of receiving a training position.

“My parents, who I had moved back in with, were at work that day, so my match result was something for me to take in and process at my own pace, before sharing with the world.”

“Virtual Match Day” was a rousing success. It reached over 25,000 people through social media, and there have been over 7,600 views of the videos.

Match Day ChartA majority of the TCOM Class of 2020 matched in Texas, with nearly 60% staying in the Lone Star State. Twenty-four percent of students matched in Family Medicine, while 20 percent will be practicing Internal Medicine.

For Dr. Filipetto, Match Day took on a more personal tone, as his daughter, Francesca Filipetto, matched into Physical Medicine & Rehab at the UT San Antonio Health Science Center.

Despite the initial disappointment of the Match Day ceremony being canceled, the TCOM family rallied and created the virtual way to celebrate the Class of 2020 in a unique way that will be remembered for a lifetime.

“These students are my ‘kids,’ ” said Dr. Filipetto. “Can you imagine telling your young children that Christmas is cancelled after they have been good all year? In the end, and similar to Christmas, we all recognized the true meaning of the day and without hesitation TCOM put together a virtual Match Day experience that allowed us all to celebrate and acknowledge the milestone that students set as a goal four years ago!”

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