Zach White, president of the University of South Alabama 2021 medical school class, said he was inspired to become a doctor by watching his mother battle, and eventually beat, breast cancer.
So, it was fitting that on Match Day Friday, he found out he’d be headed to Stanford University to specialize in radiology oncology.
“My mother always told me to never give up and to persevere to achieve my dreams,” he said. “I want to give back to patients like my mom. I’m really excited to be able to start my career.”
In a year marred by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Match Day tradition of opening envelopes while family and friends looked on in person was replaced by students sitting by themselves six feet apart. The changes meant White’s mother, his inspiration for going into the medical field, was not beside him on the big day. However, the Birmingham native was undeterred and said the family would celebrate together in Mobile.
Friday was an exciting day for all 67 medical students, even if the COVID-19 pandemic had tempered the emotion a bit. Of the matches made on Friday, 22 of the future doctors will be going into primary care fields. This includes 10 in internal medicine, seven in family medicine, four in pediatrics and one in internal medicine/pediatrics.
Eight students were matched with specialists in obstetrics and gynecology (OB-GYN), while six were matched with general surgery.
There were other challenges facing the future doctors as a result of the pandemic. White said early on in the third year of medical school, interactions with patients through clinic hours took a hit. They made up for it later in the year and into this year, he said. The challenges they faced will make them all better doctors, White said.
“I’m proud of our class for overcoming adversities,” he said.
If attending medical school during a pandemic wasn’t hard enough, try also planning a wedding.
That was the situation Mobilians Ian Garrison and Kendal Dekle found themselves in. Engaged in December 2019, Garrison and Dekle did a couple’s match — both were paired at USA Health’s University Hospital for residency.
“This is a huge milestone for her family and for mine,” Garrison said. “It has been an incredible journey.”
Both graduates of McGill-Toolen Catholic High School, Dekle said she and Garrison are excited to be sticking around in Mobile.
“It feels incredible,” she said. “We couldn’t be happier to stay in Mobile.”
Garrison will be going into orthopedic surgery, while Dekle will be going into OB-GYN. While Garrison and Dekle met in high school, the two began dating in medical school. In between, Dekle attended The University of Alabama, while Garrison attended Spring Hill College.
Dala Eloubeidi, a Birmingham native, said she has visited Michigan in the past, but due to COVID-19 restrictions was not able to visit Ann Arbor before being matched to the University of Michigan for residency.
As for the pandemic’s impact on the future internal medicine doctor, Eloubeidi said she has missed the personal touch that is important while practicing medicine.
“There has been a lack of a close connection with patients,” she said. “Just that aspect of it feels different. I’m excited to see everything get back to normal.”
Match Day was a “dream come true” for Montgomery’s Ravi Rajendra. He matched with LSU – New Orleans on an orthopedic surgery residency. Rajendra chose orthopedic surgery because it includes aspects of everything he thought he wanted to be as a child. He said he used to dream of being a firefighter, an astronaut and a lawyer.
“I realized I could be a hero like a firefighter, a pioneer like an astronaut and a defender of people like a lawyer,” he said.
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