By Wendy Sarubbi | March 21, 2014 3:00 pm

Fifty-five UCF medical school seniors matched into residency programs across Florida and in some of the top programs across the country Friday – in specialties that included primary care, anesthesiology, dermatology and vascular surgery.

In Florida, students will do their residencies at locations including Orlando Health, Florida Hospital, University of Florida, University of South Florida, Miami Children’s Hospital and the Mayo School of Graduate Medical Education in Jacksonville.

Students who sought national placements will do their residencies at programs that include Johns Hopkins, Harvard’s Massachusetts General, Georgetown University and Stanford University.

Dr. Deborah German, vice president for medical affairs and founding dean of the College of Medicine, said she was “delighted” with the Class of 2014 match, the second in the young school’s history. “As our students continue their training, they will care for patients throughout Florida and the nation,” she said. “They are carrying on the legacy of our young medical school as UCF-educated physicians.”

On Friday, 55 paper lanterns – colored black and gold to signify UCF’s colors – hung between palm trees outside the medical school. Each held a student’s sealed envelope containing their residency match. At noon, after the College of Medicine’s clock tower tolled 12 times, students pulled a string on the lantern to free their envelope and learn where they will spend the next three to five years of residency training.

They screamed, cheered, cried and hugged parents, partners and children. Avianne Bunnell reached her hands up to the sky and said, “thank you, God” as she learned she will go to her first choice, the Medical University of South Carolina, to be a vascular surgeon. Bunnell’s husband, Brian, matched into a pre-doctoral program in clinical psychology at the same university about a week ago so the couple approached Match Day unsure if they would be in the same location. “I am absolutely thrilled” Bunnell said. “I am so, so blessed.”

Jennifer Bazemore, a UCF biomedical sciences honors undergraduate, will do her pediatric residency at Johns Hopkins. “I’m beyond excited,” she said of getting her top choice at one of America’s premier programs. “I can’t stop crying.”

Alvin Detorres, a Stetson University graduate, matched at Georgetown University for otolaryngology. He said he wanted to do his residency at Georgetown because of the program’s overall excellence, especially in surgery of the ear, nose and throat. “I am very excited,” he said. “I get to help people hear music the way I hear music.”

Bobby Palmer matched into orthopedic surgery at his first choice, the University of Florida College of Medicine in Jacksonville. An emotional Palmer said he was dedicating his match to his grandfather, who died Thursday. “I’m from a small town in South Florida so Jacksonville felt like home to me, he said, adding that he has always been comfortable with  tools, like the ones orthopedic surgeons use. “I guess that’s because my granddad had a hardware store when I was growing up,” he said.

The match is similar to an online dating service. Students select their preferred residency program from a list of possibilities nationwide. Residency programs housed at universities and hospitals list their top picks. A centralized computer spends weeks sorting and coming up with the best “match,” which is announced at noon on the designated Match Day at medical schools nationwide. Students have no idea where they will do residency training until then. This year, 34,270 applicants went through match.

Learning where they will do their residencies is the last hurdle before the college’s second class graduates on May 16. In addition to being a huge event for students, this year’s Match Day was also a milestone for UCF as the College of Medicine learned the 16 M.D. graduates who make up its charter class of Internal Medicine residents. The new residency program begins in July, in partnership with the Orlando VA Medical Center and Osceola Regional Medical Center, and is designed to help ease the community’s shortage of primary care physicians.

Many UCF students placed into primary care specialties – nine matched into internal medicine, eleven matched into pediatrics. Thirteen students matched in Orlando – 10 at Orlando Health, two at Florida Hospital and one at UCF’s new residency program.

Omar Shakeel opened his match envelope with his mother standing nearby and learned he will do his pediatric residency at Emory University, his first choice. A joyful and tearful Shakeel looked around at the College of Medicine faculty and staff who gathered on the school’s Tavistock Green to celebrate the medical school’s 100 percent match rate for 2014. “I love taking care of kids. They are the future,” he said. “And right now I’m remembering everything that these people did to get me here.”

See the complete list of match results here.

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