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Med Students Meet Their Match


By Elaine Schmidt

Published Mar 19, 2012 12:36 PM


Photo courtesy of: UCLA Health Systems.

Nearly 170 aspiring doctors and their elated families flooded Covel Commons on Friday, March 16, for UCLA's Match Day—when medical students nationwide learn which residency program has accepted them for advanced training in their chosen specialty. A single envelope holds the key to where each graduate will be spending the next three to seven-plus years, charting the course for their future careers and personal lives.

This year, four enterprising students at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA decided to try something new to defuse the tension. With the administration's blessing, a flash mob of 50 people disrupted the Match Day ceremony by spontaneously joining a dance choreographed to Chris Brown's pulsating "3xYeah."

At first surprised, the crowd reacted quickly. Everyone stood up and hundreds of cameras and cell phones captured the spectacle with thunderous approval.

Match Day Celebration

Four students orchestrate a crowd-pleasing flash mob.

Video by UCLA Health Systems

The loudest cheers were saved for the end, when senior associate dean Dr. Neil Parker and student-affairs director Meredith Szumski stepped to the front of the flash mob and wowed the crowd with their enthusiastic dance moves.

Medical students Justin Hayase, Mitra Nejad, Alyssa Scott and Lissa Yu secretly planned the performance since January. Yu thought up the idea, Scott recruited the student-affairs staff, and Nejad reached out to classmates.

"Alyssa and I came up with a list of potential participants—mostly people we'd seen dancing at clubs," explained Nejad. "My part involved about 50 emails to students and a spreadsheet of dancers. I joked about this being the nerdiest flash mob ever."

A competitive hip-hop dancer, Hayase created the choreography and posted private videos on YouTube to teach the routine to classmates and student-affairs staff. In one tutorial, he promised that the steps were so easy that "even Dr. Parker can do them." About a third of the fourth-year class took part in the high-energy dance, which climaxed in the UCLA eight-clap and cheer.

Thunderous applause greeted Dr. Eugene Washington, dean of the medical school and vice chancellor for health sciences, as he approached the microphone.

"If that didn't get your heart pumping, you are either asleep or dead," he proclaimed. "By the time I finish my next sentence, this will be all over YouTube." He praised the graduating class, noting that its students were accomplished as well as artistic.

Parker broke down the matches by medical specialty and geography, and pointed out a trend. "This year had one big winner," he observed. "Nineteen students chose family medicine as a specialty."

In fact, a whopping forty-six percent of the class decided to pursue a career in primary care, which includes family medicine, internal medicine, pediatrics and obstetrics/gynecology. The students' choices reflect the school's curriculum, which emphasizes the importance of access to good primary care.

At 9 a.m., the students nervously filed outside to find the envelopes bearing their names. Pandemonium exploded on the patio: students erupted in triumphant screams and tears of joy, hugging their classmates and pumping their fists into the air. The majority of students received their first choices and smiled rapturously for photos, relieved to know the next step of their lives.

Flash-mob choreographer Hayase enjoyed the satisfaction of starting and ending his morning on a successful note. "I got my first choice, internal medicine at UCSD," he grinned. "My girlfriend studies in San Diego and can't wait for me to move down there. It's going to be a great three years."



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