By Wendy Sarubbi | March 18, 2022 6:17 pm
Michael Chiang celebrates his match into emergency medicine at University of Texas Southwestern. 

As UCF medical students, they devoted themselves to the forgotten — farmworkers, the homeless, the uninsured. And at Friday’s National Match Day, as they learned where they will do residency training, many of the soon-to-be physician Knights took the next step in helping those in need.

The 107 students who matched into residencies include the son of Cuban immigrants who studied ways for low-income women to get mammograms, a woman who was born prematurely and is a national spokesperson for the March of Dimes, and a former congressional aide who switched from healthcare policy to becoming a primary care physician.  

They joined colleagues, family members, children and even dogs on the College of Medicine’s Tavistock Green to celebrate Match – the first time in two years that traditional ceremonies resumed because of COVID-19. At noon EST, almost 40,000 M.D. students nationwide learned where they will do the next three to seven years of their training based on their specialty of choice.

“I know you are resilient. You spent your formative clinical years during a pandemic, and you have thrived,” said their dean, Dr. Deborah German, her voice cracking with emotion. “COVID-19 has changed so much about our world, including residency interviews and away rotations. And you have persevered through all those challenges. At noon, as you open your Match envelope, you are opening the door to your future.”

UCF’s students will do their residencies at top programs across the country, state and community. A record 16 students matched into UCF-HCA Healthcare residencies across Central and North Florida, the most in program history. Six will train at Orlando Health; 41 will do some or all of their training in Florida.

Dean Deborah German celebrates Match with Knightro.

Nationally, students will train at programs including Boston Children’s Hospital, Emory, Georgetown, Harvard, Johns Hopkins, Stanford and Vanderbilt. Their specialties include primary care programs like internal medicine, pediatrics and OB-GYN, and other specialties such as radiology, surgery, dermatology and psychiatry. Once again, UCF’s 2022 residency placement rate of 98% was significantly higher than this year’s national rate of 93%.

Many of the students who matched are leaders in the college’s community outreach programs.

Spencer Adams helped start the Chapman Compassionate Care clinic that provides care to the homeless population in downtown Orlando. He matched into pediatrics at Michigan State University — his top choice. The father of two came to medical school after working as an epidemiologist for federal and state governments. He says becoming a pediatrician is the next step in a career dedicated to improving public health. “I want to be a voice for kids,” he said, “to help address barriers and societal structures and empower them to live more healthy lives. As physicians we need to be leaders across the community.”

Partners Vincent Cendan and Ricci Allen matched at top national programs just a 45-minute train ride apart. He’s going to Georgetown for a combined internal medicine/pediatrics specialty. She’s going to Johns Hopkins for pediatrics. Cendan, a Cuban American, has been a leader with MedPACt (Medical Students Providing Across Continents), where he provided care in rural Peru and at a multidisciplinary clinic serving Apopka farmworkers. He’s seen the impact of healthcare disparities on Latinx immigrants, especially those with limited English skills. He chose this highly competitive specialty because it will give him dual board certification in internal medicine and pediatrics and “give me the opportunity to treat people across all the age spectrums.”  

Ricci Allen and Vincent Cendan

Allen fell in love with pediatrics while training at Nemours Children’s Health during her third-year clerkships and often volunteered with their mobile clinic. “So many kids don’t have access to healthcare,” she said. “They don’t even have a bus to get them to the doctor.”

Medical student Annalisa Sega was born 10 weeks early due to complications from her mother’s preeclampsia. A volunteer and spokesperson with the March of Dimes, she has testified before the U.S. House of Representatives and is an advocate for women’s health. Active in many of the College of Medicine’s service organizations and free clinics, she is going into OB/GYN at Carolina’s Medical Center in Charlotte, a program recognized for its care of the underserved.

“I never went into medicine for the glory or the prestige,” she said. “I chose medicine because I really liked science and I wanted to use something that I was good at to help people.”

Annalisa Sega

David Gittess helped people with healthcare issues who called the office of former U.S. Senator Bill Nelson. As a legislative correspondent on healthcare policy, he wanted to have more direct impact on patients. That quest led him to UCF’s College of Medicine, where he earned a national Excellence in Public Health Service Award, was a leader for MedPACt, and helped run the homeless and farmworkers’ clinics.

After graduation in May, he’s going to the University of Florida for an internal medicine residency and ultimately hopes to become a cardiologist. He’s thrilled to be staying in Florida because “you only get one hometown and one home state. Service to others will stay with me everywhere I go. It’s why I came to medical school.”

Xamil Vega was inspired by the perseverance of his Cuban immigrant parents to get an education that would help him care for underserved communities. As a patient education leader at the student-run KNIGHTS (Keeping Neighbors in Good Health Through Service) Clinic through Orlando’s Grace Medical Home, he was committed to empowering patients to improve their health.  He researched socioeconomic barriers to mammography in underserved communities. Born and raised in Tampa, he matched into diagnostic radiology at University of South Florida – his top choice – and will do a first-year internship, a requirement for his specialty, at the UCF-HCA Healthcare transitional program at Osceola Regional Medical Center.

Vega was surrounded by his mother, sister and girlfriend, a Florida State medical student, as he opened his match envelope and was so happy, he was at a loss for words.

Xamil Vega will do his first-year internship at UCF/HCA before entering a diagnostic radiology residency at University of South Florida in his hometown of Tampa.

“I’m going home to care for people,” he said. “I couldn’t be happier!”

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