Trading crayons for stethoscopes: two TCOM students chase their dreams of medicine together

D7521504 Effe 4378 833e E4196923f380From kindergarten and junior prom to the halls of the Medical Education and Training building, Madisen Seidel and Kate Russell’s journey to Match Day has been an extraordinary twist of fate. The pair, who are now fourth-year students at The University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth’s Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine, first met when they were 5 years old. Now they are just a few weeks away from learning where they’ll match for residency.

The pair will participate in Match Day, one of the most momentous days in a medical student’s journey to becoming a doctor. Match Day is a long-time tradition that is followed by all medical schools across the country. Each year on the third Friday in March, fourth-year medical students wait in anticipation for the clock to strike noon. They excitedly open their envelopes to learn where they will complete their residencies and spend the next three or more years becoming practicing physicians.

41d75e72 99fc 43d5 8d33 5a8568705c10Despite spending the majority of their lives in school together at All Saints Episcopal School in Tyler, Russell and Seidel briefly went their separate ways. Russell graduated from high school a year early and headed to Baylor University to study neuroscience. A year later, Seidel headed to Southern Methodist University to study biology and health sciences. Both had plans to attend medical school.

While at Baylor, Russell discovered a love for public health and decided medical school wasn’t for her at the time, so she pursued a Master of Science in Public Health from Emory University.

“I really fell in love with public health and was convinced that was the path I was supposed to take,” Russell said. “I worked for the CDC for a short time, but ultimately decided I still needed to pursue my dream of becoming a doctor and started applying to medical school.”

Seidel took a different path to medical school. After SMU, she worked as a scribe for an OBGYN. Inspired by her clinical exposure, especially in the field of OBGYN, Seidel decided to attend the Master of Science in Medical Science program at HSC’s School of Biomedical Sciences while she applied to medical school.

As fate would have it

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Left: Kate Russell Right: Madisen Seidel

Seidel vividly remembers sitting on a bench in the MET lobby on interview day. She was nervous until a very unexpected person walked through the door: Kate Russell.

“When I tell you I was so relieved,” Seidel said. “Seeing not only a familiar face, but one of my lifelong friends, walking toward me was exactly what I needed that day.”

The reunion was equally as shocking – in the best way possible – exciting for Russell.

“I saw her and yelled ‘Madisen Seidel’ from across the room,” Russell said. “I couldn’t believe we had applied for the same program.

“I always knew she wanted to be a doctor, so I’m not sure why it never crossed my mind that we could go to medical school together.”

Both girls were accepted into TCOM, but their intertwined fates didn’t stop there. Since they started classes during the COVID-19 lockdown, Russell was unable to tour apartments prior to moving to Fort Worth, so her mother who lived in the area did it for her. As chance would have it, Russell’s mom, picked the exact same building Seidel had been living in, and the two ended up neighbors.

Another happy coincidence for Russell came when her mom, Dr. Kimberly Russell, was hired on as the vice president of institutional advancement and executive director of the UNTHSC Foundation during her final year of medical school.

“I am very grateful to have had this special time with Kate before she graduates and am so proud of both young women from a small town in East Texas who will soon become physicians,” Russell said. “It has also been such a wonderful opportunity for me to serve the incredible faculty, staff and students, like Kate and Madisen, at HSC and to work with colleagues from across the UNT System during this academic year.”

Being neighbors ended up being one of the best – and most important parts – of their first year of medical school.

The COVID Class

“It was perfect,” Seidel said. “We were constantly going to each other’s apartments because we were so isolated during the pandemic.

“Your first year of medical school is hard, and so many of our classmates were in their apartments alone with no support. I’m just so thankful that I had Kate and never had to go through any of that year alone.”

The pair refers to the TCOM Class of 2024 as the “COVID class.” Any big, in-person celebration that medical students usually experience, they missed out on. Their White Coat Ceremony was virtual and incredibly isolating, they said. Russell ended up stricken with COVID during the ceremony.

“We really didn’t get to have the same experience as other TCOM classes,” Russell explained. “Our White Coat Ceremony was virtual, most of our classes were online, and we didn’t have a ‘boot party’ after our second year.”

Seidel says that the unprecedented time during medical school makes having an in-person Match Day ceremony even more meaningful.

Despite it all, the future physicians are eager to finish strong and finally learn where they’re going for residency.

Nearing the finish line

Years of tireless studying and countless sleepless nights are about to pay off for Russell and Seidel. Match Day will be celebrated on March 15, and both students are eagerly awaiting news of their residency placements.

Russell has her sights set on neurology, while Seidel aspires for an OBGYN residency.

“I’m so excited to see where we all go,” Russell said. “We’ve grown up with these people and watched everyone work toward their dreams for four years.

“For Madisen and me, it’s even crazier. I’ve known her since we were five, and she’s the smartest and kindest person I’ve ever met. She is going to be the best doctor to the luckiest patients.”

While their time at TCOM is coming to an end, there is no end in sight for the bond Russell and Seidel have nurtured.

“Being her friend for so long has been such a blessing,” Seidel said. “When I saw her at our interview four years ago, I knew that TCOM must be a great place if Kate was going to be here.

“I was absolutely right, and I couldn’t have done this without her.”

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