Match Day Memories for UW School of Medicine Students

Two girls holding up sings with the hospitals they were matched with.
Each year, Match Day is a big celebration for UW School of Medicine students

April 25, 2024
Cindy Hval | UW-GU Health Partnership

On March 15, medical school graduates across the nation discovered where they would spend their next several years of training.

Students apply to residency programs at the beginning of their last year of medical school. In turn, program directors for the residency programs rank applicants. A match occurs when a computer program matches student applications with residencies with high mutual rankings.

Opening the envelope (or email) offers an exciting moment to share with family and friends, followed by a celebration with colleagues and faculty.

Joanne De Howitt remembers the anticipation she felt last year.

“I’d just given birth to my daughter on February 26,” she recalled. “I was still completing my rank list when I was in labor!”

Originally from Maple Valley, WA., she chose to attend medical school in Spokane after falling in love with Eastern Washington as an undergrad at WSU. She and her husband were delighted to settle in the city when she started medical school in 2019.

Though she comes from a family of engineers and nuclear physicists, by high school, she knew she wanted to pursue medicine.

“My mom suffered with chronic pain for a lot of her life, and I saw how impactful it was when her physician communicated with her,” said De Howitt.

While studying the Brain, Mind, and Behavior block during her second year, she found her calling – psychiatry.

“I had so much fun,” she said. “I knew it was my passion.”

De Howitt is drawn to patients in vulnerable populations.

“People with mental illness need someone to sit with them in the moment and be present for them,” she said. “Each patient deserves to be treated with dignity and respect.”

Her six-week psychiatry clerkship in Spokane led her to rank that psychiatry residency as her first choice.

On Match Day, her husband was at work, and she was home alone with her newborn. Her class decided to open their envelopes at home and meet later that night to celebrate together.

“It was just me and my baby girl,” De Howitt recalled. “I took a picture of her sleeping on me with my letter. It was such a special moment.”

Later, she learned her best friend had matched into the same residency.

“I was so thrilled!”

Conor Linehan also remembers the anticipation leading up to Match Day.

left: Connor Linehan med student, right: Joanne De Howitt, med student.
Connor Linehan (left) is doing a transitional year residency in Spokane and will do his Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation residency in Seattle. Joanne De Howitt (right) is in the first year of her Psychiatric Residency in Spokane.

Linehan grew up in Spokane and was delighted to be able to attend medical school in his hometown.

“My dad was a family medicine physician assistant,” Linehan said. 

He thought he might pursue family medicine with a focus on sports medicine until a UWSOM-Spokane faculty member asked if he’d heard about Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (PM&R).

PM&R is a branch of medicine that aims to enhance and restore functional ability and quality of life to people with physical impairments or disabilities.

After some research and job shadowing, Linehan felt drawn to this field.

“I completed a PM&R sub-internship at Harborview in Seattle,” he recalled. “It was very hands-on. I helped to develop a care plan for a patient and discuss it with the patient and the team. That was a turning point for me.”

For Linehan, the lure of PM&R is the slow, meaningful change that occurs in patients over time. He recalled watching a patient with no strength in his legs gradually be able to get out of his bed.

“I’ll be doing in-patient rehabilitation during residency,” he said.

His Match Day process had some additional tension because Linehan had to rank two residencies or rank his transitional year (TY) and PM&R residency separately. Certain residencies require a transitional year. The year offers a wide array of experiences for first-year residents while also allowing them to prepare for their advanced residency program.

“It was another layer of anxiety, but also high satisfaction when I matched into my preferred TY in Spokane,” he said.

He found the Match Day celebration with his cohorts especially meaningful.

“We were a class hit by COVID during our first year of medical school,” he explained. “We didn’t get to be together in person very often.”

The party took place in the UW-GU Health Partnership Building which opened in 2022. Linehan said it was fun to see what the current group of UWSOM-Spokane students is enjoying.

Though he’ll be heading to Seattle for his advanced residency after this year, he hopes to return to practice in Eastern Washington.

“I’m grateful to have attended medical school here,” said Linehan. “Spokane has such a great medical community.”

Learn more about the collaboration of UW medical and GU health sciences.