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Four years of hard work led to one envelope that contained their future.

Western University of Health Sciences’ College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific (COMP) celebrated Match Day on its Pomona, California and Lebanon, Oregon campuses March 18, 2016. Match Day is a national celebration where medical students find out the residency they will attend after graduation.

When the clock struck 9 a.m., students in COMP’s Class of 2016 opened envelopes containing their residency locations and reacted with shouts, hugs and tears. Of the 198 students who matched in Pomona as of March 18, 120 placed in Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) residency programs, 70 placed in American Osteopathic Association residency programs, and eight placed in military residency programs.

Fourth-year COMP student Emmeline Qin matched into the Los Angeles County-University of Southern California Medical Center Pediatrics Residency Program. She was so nervous she had her husband open the envelope for her.

“It was relief and then excitement. I wanted to stay local and then I started hearing where everyone else was going,” she said. “Some of my close friends are also matched into the same program. It’s going to be really fun doing our internship together.”

Qin said she sees pediatrics as an opportunity to help patients at an early stage of life.

“Kids go through so many developmental stages, it’s never going to be boring,” she said. “I also like the people in pediatrics. They’re happy, warm people who care deeply about their patients and their well-being. Those are the kinds of people I want to work with.”

Qin is one of 112 COMP-Pomona students who matched into primary care, or 57 percent.

“Our mission is always to produce competent and compassionate students,” said Lisa Warren, DO ’01, Director of COMP’s Office of Career and Professional Development and Clinical Chair of the Department of Pediatrics. “We nurture students to intervene to help the underserved, which is driven through primary care. We’re proud that one of our strengths is producing excellent future primary care physicians.”

A total of 102 COMP-Northwest students participated in the Match, and more than half landed programs in primary care. Of the Class of 2016, 53 matched into primary care fields, which include internal medicine, family medicine, pediatrics, and OB-GYN.

COMP’s Match Day celebration keeps growing every year. Many students matched into their first choices and placed with their friends and colleagues, Warren said.

“It’s such a joyous moment to see them celebrating together,” she said. “We’re so proud of them. This is our chance as faculty to celebrate with them. This is what they worked for, to be able to come together as a group.”

After the students opened their envelopes, they were invited to the front of the lecture hall to announce their name, specialty residency program and location. Their information was pinned to an electronic map displayed on the lecture hall screens.

Medical residency programs can range from three to seven years, depending on the specialty. For example, family practice is three years, while neurosurgery is seven years. Following residency, the physician is then able to set up practice in the community of their choice.

Fourth-year COMP student Neal Christopher, matched into the Loma Linda University Psychiatry Residency Program along with his close friend and classmate Aaron Gilmore. They announced their residencies together.

Christopher said he had wonderful mentors, including COMP Dean Paula Crone, DO ’92, and Vice Dean David Connett, DO ’84, who helped prepare him for this moment.

“I feel very ready to take the next step. It’s very scary going into an intern role, where your responsibilities are exponentially greater,” he said. “I’m nervous, but this is why you do all this hard work, to get to the place where someone can give you that responsibility to take care of your fellow humans. COMP has prepared me well, and at Loma Linda I will continue to develop the skills I need to improve mental health in the Inland Empire.”

COMP Associate Dean for Academic Affairs Susan Mackintosh, DO ’92, MPH, provided a toast to the graduates in Pomona.

“To all of your successes, especially your successful matches and placement,” she said. “Most importantly, to the successes that lie ahead and to your journey ahead. As you leave here, we want you to know that you are always part of our family and we are so proud of you all. Congratulations to the Class of 2016.”

Dean Crone gave a toast to the Class of 2016 in Lebanon as they began the next phase of their medical education.

“May you always have resiliency, tenacity, purpose and courage,” she said. “Wherever you are going, know you are going somewhere you are needed. Embrace your destination and know we are so proud of you.”