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Match Day is still exciting from a distance

Image with caption: Morgan Walgren, center, checks her match Friday as her mom Jackie Walgren, left, and sister Hannah Walgren look on.

Morgan Walgren, center, checks her match Friday as her mom Jackie Walgren, left, and sister Hannah Walgren look on.

Editor's note: On March 20, Morgan Walgren matched at the UNMC Department of Internal Medicine.

Morgan Walgren, a fourth-year medical student, wasn't alone on this unprecedented 2020 Match Day.

But she wasn't part of a huge crowd.

Typically, more than 100 UNMC M4s, along with loved ones, well-wishers and friends, gather to find out where they will do their physician residency training. Getting the news can spark relief, jubilation, tears, hugs. It can be an emotional occasion with lots of grandparents. Lots of kids.

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Morgan Walgren, center, celebrates matching at the UNMC Department of Internal Medicine with sisters Taylor Cech, left, a physical therapist, and Hannah Walgren, right, a nurse.

But this year, they did not find out simultaneously in a bustling Truhlsen Events Center in the Sorrell Center on UNMC's Omaha campus. Instead, UNMC's 128 matching students were isolated from one another on March 20, each waiting to open a virtual "envelope."

Match Day at UNMC was just one of the numerous events and celebrations set aside in a "flatten the curve" effort in the wake of the global COVID-19 pandemic.

Walgren was with just a handful of family, including two sisters who are UNMC alumnae in physical therapy and nursing, their parents, and significant others.

Wait a minute -- does that violate Gov. Pete Ricketts' order that celebrations be kept to 10 people or fewer?

"We have a couple of dogs that may put us over that limit," Walgren said.

Yes, Walgren still has her sense of humor about a medical student's biggest day being canceled. And she was still excited about her own match day, even as it happened like this.

See students' matches from March 20

"I very much am," she said last week.

She also understands why the change is necessary.

"I was looking forward to the big celebration that they've had in the past," she said. "But, being a provider, seeing our health care system. . ."

Walgren is a practicing physician assistant, UNMC class of 2014.

"I'm finding I'm more of a public health advocate than I thought before," she said.

Match Day with social distancing is the right thing to do.

"We can always celebrate. There's always time for that in the future," Walgren said.

And the day still featured the anticipation of opening your envelope, even if this time it was an email. She hoped to continue her training here in Nebraska.

"With every interview I had, I kept comparing it back to Nebraska Medicine and UNMC," she said. "I would be very, very ecstatic to stay."

But. . .

"I applied to other really good programs. I will be fortunate wherever I go."

Match Day still held its magic, even at a social distance.

128 get residency assignments

A total of 128 senior medical students at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha received their residency assignments today.

Match Day is an annual rite of passage for medical students, a day when they learn at which U.S. residency programs they will train for the next three to seven years in the medical area of their choice. Students are matched through a computer program to align their preferences for residency programs in order to fill the thousands of training positions available at U.S. teaching hospitals.

Forty-four percent of UNMC students are staying in Nebraska for their training, and 67 percent matched in primary care, which includes family medicine, internal medicine, internal medicine/pediatrics, pediatrics and obstetrics/gynecology.

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