image of "I Matched" Celebratory yard signs in green grass in front of "red" historical building and palm trees on the GAlveston Campus

From masks to Match Day

 Match Day Results Available 3/15 at 1 p.m.

The med school class that started during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic are preparing for the next chapter 

When members of the 2024 graduating class of the John Sealy School of Medicine began their journey at the University of Texas Medical Branch four years ago during the early, uncertain days of the COVID-19 pandemic, things looked a lot different than they do today.  

In-person gatherings were canceled or repositioned as virtual meetings, and when people did have the rare chance to see each other face to face, masks were donned, socially distanced spaces were kept, and individuals tried their best to navigate this “new normal” in which we all found ourselves.  

five family members posing for a photo with a female wearing a black dress and a doctor's white coat positioned in the middle of everyone

All the traditional rites of passage that come with starting medical school at UTMB were adjusted as well. 

“For orientation we went virtual,” said Dr. Ruth Levine, a practicing psychiatrist and associate dean of Student Affairs and Admissions with the John Sealy School of Medicine.  “Then for the white coat ceremony—which is historically a very big deal—we had a virtual ceremony and people shared pictures of themselves to commemorate the milestone, but it just wasn’t the same.

It was a collectively weird, difficult time across the world, and the UTMB students trying to begin this new chapter of their lives definitely felt the impact.  

“July of 2020 was just a ridiculous time of uncertainty and lots of things changing,” said Ray Cortez, a fourth-year medical student whose parents also attended UTMB. 

Fellow year-four student Katelyn Meaux—a first-generation medical student—echoed those thoughts.  

“We started med school in July, and we didn’t see anybody; we didn’t get to talk to anybody [in person],” she said, reflecting on the start of her first-year experience.  

Knowing first-hand how taxing medical school can be, Levine, who has had a direct hand in helping new students come on board for more than five years, and her colleagues did what they could to mitigate the challenges. 

I mean, everybody was challenged [during that time],” Levine said. “But the particular problem with this class is that a big part of surviving medical school group of individuals featuring one man and four women, all wearing black masks standing side by side each other outside is having supportive relationships with the people around you, and that’s just harder to do when you can’t be in the same room, face to face without a mask on.” 

While the beginning of their medical school experience may have gotten off to a less-than-ideal start, and there certainly continued to be a fair number of twists and turns along the way, the current seniors are approaching a big milestone known as Match Day, which is when medical students learn where they’ll be completing their residency training.  

“It’s going to be a big party,” said Levine, who oversees the planning and execution of the day, which involves students and their loved ones gathering in Levin Hall on the Galveston Campus.  

Taking place on March 15 this year, the festivities will be filled with food, photo opportunities and fun before the big reveal at 11 a.m. when students open the envelopes that contain the information about the residency programs they’ll be attending. 

“My parents are going to be here, my sister will be here and my fiancé,” said Cortez who will be specializing in ophthalmology. “It’s going to be a great day. I’m really excited.” 

Despite the unorthodox start to their time together, the John Sealy School of Medicine class of 2024 found a way to still forge strong bonds. The connection is palpable when talking to Meaux, who is hoping to match with an obstetrics and gynecology program in the area.  

“We've gone through a very tumultuous few years together,” she said. “I’m so excited to see where my classmates match, and where we all go.” 

More information about this year’s Match Day celebration can be found online.