It’s not often in life that we can predict the exact day and time when life-changing moments will occur, but for 221 UTMB medical students March 18 was one of those times. It was Match Day, when medical students around the country find out where they will train as residents — a day when futures are foretold and paths are revealed inside a sealed, white envelope.
For one of those students the wait was a little longer than the rest, but not without its reward.
Arielle Capers came to UTMB by way of Riverside, Calif., and Prairie View A&M University, where she was offered a full academic scholarship. She became interested in UTMB while participating in the Medical School Familiarization program one summer. For the next four years she worked hard to accomplish her dream of becoming an obstetrician and was full of anticipation as she waited for her name to be called.
“Match Day, Thursday, March 18, 2010, was the most perfect day that I can remember. I woke up so frustrated wanting to know when the rest of my life was going to begin,” said Capers. The band played their tune to start off the ceremony and the names were called one-by-one.
“They continued to call names and I continued to wait. They got down to the last two names and the band played a number. All the while I am looking at my best friend thinking that they have forgotten my envelope. I don't even get one. Then the runner-up was called and I was convinced that the last envelope was someone else's. Then the last name was called—Arielle Capers.”
Capers opened her envelope and learned that she will be serving her residency at her number one choice — The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston— a dream come true.
But that wasn’t all.
UTMB Match Day tradition calls for each student to drop a dollar into a basket as they come up to the stage to receive their envelopes. The last student called wins the jackpot as a reward for enduring the suspense.
“I shook my head and looked at the envelope and then back to the box of money and I felt as though the weight of the world had just been lifted off of my shoulders,” said Capers. “And for a moment, I felt sheer peace. My heart was no longer racing. I just felt as though the whole world is perfect and nothing can ruin this moment. Not only did I get my first choice, but I had this box of money to top it off.”
The money was hers, a seemingly random stroke of luck or maybe the answer to a prayer. As the reality of the moment began to sink in, her thoughts went to her sister in California.
On March14, just four days prior to Match Day, Caper’s younger sister was hit by a drunk driver and suffered severe memory loss as a result of the accident. She doesn’t remember her last two years as an undergraduate, that she wants to be a pediatrician or that her sister is graduating from UTMB in June. But Capers is hopeful that perseverance, love and the help of her Match Day jackpot will bring her sister through.
“All medical students know that money is very tight, so going home was going to be difficult,” Capers said. “Winning the money pot on Match Day allowed me to buy a ticket to go home to my baby sister, hug her and try to help her remember bits and pieces of her life. For that I am grateful to all of my fellow medical students. I just want to see my sister regain her memory. Hopefully, she will remember that she wants to join the medical field and she will go on to make her older sister prouder than proud.”