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Liberty osteopathic medical students celebrate highly successful 98% match rate for residency placements

Siobhan Brady matched in psychiatry for University of Buffalo.

This time last year, medical education was completely changed by COVID-19. Virtual learning quickly became the new normal and symbolic milestones annually held in person were occurring on computer screens. On March 19, and like last year, Liberty University College of Osteopathic Medicine (LUCOM) fourth-year osteopathic medical students virtually celebrated the long-awaited news of their Match — their future location for residency placement with family, classmates, staff, and faculty at LUCOM.

LUCOM has now announced a 98% match rate across the military and civilian sectors. According to the website of the National Resident Matching Program® (NRMP®), the 2021 Main Residency Match was the largest in NRMP history with 38,106 total positions offered — the highest yet. The number of U.S. DO seniors who submitted rank ordered lists of residency programs was a record-high 7,101, an increase of 520 (7.9%) over 2020; 6,327 of them matched to first-year positions, an increase of 359 (6.0%) over 2020 and the highest number ever.

To start the virtual event, Senior Associate Dean for Clinical Affairs Chad K. Brands, MD, CPE, SFHM, said a prayer of thanks and blessing over the fourth-year class.

“Lord, thank you for richly providing from the storehouses of Heaven for LUCOM’s student-doctors in these times of great difficulty in medical education, clinical settings, and hospitals — bless and guide these students as they enter residency, and use them as instruments of healing in Your name.”

James Lutz matched in family medicine at Lake Cumberland Regional Hospital.

Dr. Brands noted that LUCOM had enjoyed three years of Match success, and in its fourth year the medical school adapted the approach used last year, culminating in thousands of hours spent advising and guiding students by specialty physician faculty in Clinical Affairs. He noted that LUCOM’s fourth-year students had persevered and succeeded in an all-virtual interview season and an intensely competitive process with 42,000 candidates competing for residency programs in the Match of 2021.

“As we come through COVID-19, a year later, this year’s Class of 2021 is celebrating another historical Match. There were no national predictors during this pandemic, but we have a good and faithful God, and He has provided. I am pleased to announce that our fourth-year class has preserved as students, succeeded, and have competed so well. Congratulations to you all,” he added.

Interim Dean Joseph R. Johnson, DO, FACOOG (Dist) followed Dr. Brands and praised the fourth-year class for their hard work and setting another historical year for LUCOM.

“I am excited about this Class of 2021 and their phenomenal Match rate. I also want to say a special thanks to all of LUCOM’s faculty and staff for instilling into the lives of each and every one of our soon-to-be-osteopathic physicians and for helping them get to where they are.”

“To the students, I know it seems as if you were constantly pushing up that large and heavy medical education boulder, but now here you are — standing — on top of the hill, wanting to be an osteopathic doctor and now see a clear vision of the Lord’s path ahead of you,” Johnson added. “For those that will be specialists — neurology, surgery, family and emergency medicine — we have filled the realms of where our students are going. We are excited to see how God will take you as His hands and feet into the communities and residencies of where you will soon be. Remember to let God be your motivation and continue to see what He has in store for you. Congratulations to LUCOM’s Class of 2021.”

Alex Johnson matched in ophthalmology at Medical College of Georgia.

Match Day is a pivotal and momentous moment in the life of a student-doctor, no matter allopathic or osteopathic degree, indicating where they will complete graduate medical education for the next three to seven years, and in some cases, longer. Last year, these two-degree pathways were placed into a single combined match for all students in the National Resident Matching Program (NRMP). This year’s Match results were highly anticipated given the change in course of medical education and virtual recruiting that arose during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It was a very different year for medical students with COVID-19 and Liberty University osteopathic medical students have made it to the finish line. It was a challenging year, but this, this is an amazing moment for you all,” said Carl R. Hoegerl, DO, MSc, MSIT, FACP, assistant dean for clinical education. “I am very proud of our fourth-year class; congratulations to you all.”

Stefanie Schaeffer matched in general surgery at University of Texas Rio Grande Valley.

Established in 1952, at the request of medical students, the NRMP is a private, non-profit organization that provides a fair mechanism for matching the preferences of fourth-year medical students into U.S. residency positions. The NRMP also conducts Fellowship Matches for more than 60 subspecialties through its Specialties Matching Service. Often viewed as a rite of passage for medical students, the “Match” is the gateway to graduate medical education following graduation from medical school and the next phase of residency training of three to seven years depending on the medical or surgical specialty medical school graduates enter.

For student-doctor Alex Johnson, Class of 2021, he credits the faculty at LUCOM for his successful residency placement in ophthalmology.

“Matching is the reason for all of medical school. Quite simply, it is everything. I am so incredibly blessed to have matched into my specialty of choice. LUCOM provided me with some of the best 1-on-1 advising for my desired field. I would not have been able to match without the support from the LUCOM faculty.”

The Match process begins every summer for fourth-year medical students. It is during this final year of medical school when students apply to residency programs in the specialty of their choice. Throughout most of the academic year and leading into the spring, applicants interview with residency programs across the country. Medical students and program directors rank programs and applicants respectively, in order of preference, and submit the preference lists to the NRMP. A Nobel Prize award-winning computerized mathematical algorithm is then used by the NRMP to match residency program applicants with specialty programs.

Monica Nemat matched in pediatric at Spectrum/Michigan State University Helen Devos Children’s Hospital; John Sinkovich matched in internal medicine at Spectrum/Michigan State University Grand Rapids.

“This year, the Match process was different since all the interviews were virtual due to COVID-19. While I couldn’t visit every hospital I interviewed with, I am thankful that I matched in Internal Medicine at my top choice an hour from my hometown at a location I was familiar with,” said Shawna Simpson, Class of 2021. “Looking back, I chose LUCOM because of the opportunity to learn medicine in a Christian environment, and it has been an honor to learn from faculty who truly demonstrate how to practice medicine with a servant’s heart.”

Learn more about LUCOM’s Match results.