Albert Einstein College of Medicine students did not let COVID-19 stand in their way. In March, they celebrated Match Day and 98 % of them paired up with hospitals or medical facilities.
With COVID-19 restrictions still in place, members of the Class of 2021 gathered both virtually and at a socially distanced event on campus, in the housing courtyard and on the athletic courts atop the adjacent parking garage.
“Match Day holds a special place in the lives of doctors, and we’re thrilled that some of us were able to gather—safely—in person this year to share in this major milestone,” said Dr. Allison Ludwig, associate dean for student affairs, associate professor of medicine at Einstein and a hospitalist at Jacobi.
The Class of 2021 is the second class to match during the coronavirus. As third-year students, their clerkships were paused as the surge hit New York City in the spring of 2020. Many used the time to organize and volunteer for a range of pandemic-related efforts, from babysitting, tutoring, delivering groceries and working in labs. But Einstein faculty quickly transformed the curriculum to provide virtual experiences to meet the students’ graduation requirements, before they returned to the wards over the summer.
For the first time, all residency interviews were conducted virtually, students were not able to visit hospitals and medical centers because of the pandemic. The largest group of students from the Class of 2021 matched to internal medicine with 45 going into the field.
Rounding out the top 10 most popular specialties were: pediatrics, 18, radiology, 14, emergency medicine, 13, psychiatry, 12, surgery, eight, ophthalmology, eight; family medicine, seven, obstetrics and gynecology, six and anesthesiology, six. Thirty five will join an Einstein-affiliated residency program, including 34 at Montefiore. Residency training will begin about seven weeks after Einstein’s May 27 commencement ceremony.
“This class faced incredible challenges because of the pandemic, but they turned them into opportunities,” Dr. Ludwig said. “This extraordinary time has taught them invaluable lessons—from the need to stay on top of the latest research and to respect everyone on the healthcare team, to how to advocate for your patients, and the importance of self-care.”
Ludwig, who also went to Einstein medical school, told the Bronx Times the students typically do well with matching. While she acknowledged this past year was tough, the faculty was there to support them.
“The pandemic became a very large bump in the road, but we were able to overcome it,” she stressed. “We feel like their proud parent.”
Among the students who matched is Veronica Ortiz of Connecticut. Ortiz, 27, will be continuing her career at New York Presbyterian-Weill Cornell Medical Center for pediatrics.
Ortiz told the Bronx Times that growing up health care was a challenge for her family, so she only saw the doctor once a year. She never pictured herself in college, let alone becoming a doctor.
But in high school she realized she wanted to give back and help people. Medical school at Einstein changed her life as she worked with pediatricians and observed the impact they had on the people.
“I could really see my family in some of these patients here in the Bronx,” she said.
According to Ortiz, this past year was not easy. She stayed in constant communication with her professors and checked on parents of patients as well. Quite often, they needed help finding food and she did her best to acquiesce them.
“They were so appreciative of us calling,” she recalled.
She was president of the Einstein chapter of the Latino Medical Student Association and also participated as a volunteer in Einstein’s student-run free clinic, known as the ECHO free clinic.
Before she graduates in late May, she’ll complete research on a medical education elective on caring for Latino patients and on second project to assess the medical care of people who have been released from detention centers. That research is being conducted under two different Einstein professors.
While Ortiz is still on cloud nine and can’t believe she’s about to work in a hospital, she is ready for her new role.
“I’m very excited for this newt stage in my medical journey,” she stated.
The photos show Veronica with her niece, Sofia Gomez (they are holding a sign), Veronica by herself, and Veronica and her mother, Ruby Restrepo.