Six months into her first year of medical school, Nasim Khalfe and her classmates at Baylor College of Medicine faced the unprecedented prospect of training to be doctors during a pandemic.
The class quickly learned how to navigate medical school, and the world, during a pandemic by focusing on connection, patience and understanding.
In the three years since, Khalfe finished preclinical courses in a hybrid format before shifting to hospital clinical training. At the start of their fourth year, her classmates elected her class president. And on Match Day 2023, Khalfe opened her envelope to find she had matched into her No. 1 choice: the Department of Psychiatry at Baylor.
“Medical school is so difficult, and to do medical school in a pandemic is an even harder feat,” Khalfe said. “What has always kept me going is the feeling I get when I talk to a patient; I learn about their backgrounds and their stories. When I get to know them not for their diagnosis, but as a whole entire human being, I feel so fulfilled.”
On a rainy and windy St. Patrick’s Day, 159 medical students matched inside Rayzor Lounge at main Baylor. Forty-eight students matched with Baylor, and 70 total will train in Texas programs. More than half of those who matched will work as primary care residents.
Nationwide, the 2023 match was historic. The National Resident Matching Program reported that this was the largest match in its 70-year history with a record number of 42,952 applicants who certified a rank order list and 40,375 certified positions.
Dr. Andrea Stolar, senior associate dean of student affairs, said this year’s cohort is better equipped for the field because of their experiences and resiliency during the first years of the pandemic. And through it all, she thanked them for staying kind.
“You are stronger people because of what you have endured,” Stolar said. “I have no doubt that you have made a difference in the lives of the patients you care for throughout your rotations. You will never know the impact that a kind word or a handed tissue may have made.”
Paarth Kapadia and his parents couldn’t stop smiling after he opened his envelope. Kapadia also matched into his first-choice program, internal general medicine at the University of Pittsburgh.
Kapadia, originally from India but who spent much of his youth in Toronto and San Antonio, wants to train in Pittsburgh because of the academic environment and its medical education program. Following his training, he wants to become a physician-educator.
“Right now, I’m considering multiple specialties, and I’m going into residency with my mind as open as possible,” Kapadia said. “I feel very prepared. I feel like Baylor has exposed me to not only a wide variety of practicing and patients with amazing mentors who really prepared me for residency.”
There was no specialty-hunting for Lauren Pinzás when she started medical school. She knew she wanted to be an otolaryngologist because of her own experience with one.
Pinzás attended Southern Methodist University as a vocal performance major, performed opera in international festivals and signed a contract for a professional job. But the singing took a toll; she stopped being able to sing or talk longer than 30 seconds before going hoarse.
“I ended up having muscle tension dysphonia, a common condition caused by excessive tension in the muscles related to the voice,” Pinzás said. “For me, this was likely caused by practicing and singing for too many hours.”
Working with an otolaryngologist saved her voice, she said, and it put her on the path to medicine. She felt relief when she was told she could perform again, but it was doctor’s empathy and explanation of her condition that made the experience life changing.
On Friday, Pinzás matched into otolaryngology-head and neck surgery at the University of Chicago. She is looking forward to learning the basic skills required to treat head and neck ailments, especially how people hear, smell, speak and express themselves.
“When I thought about what kind of impact I wanted to have in my own line of work, I remembered how much (my otolaryngologist) was able to give back to me through her expertise and compassion,” Pinzás said. “The impression of that interaction resonated with the values I hope to find in my new career.”
By Julie Garcia