It’s a match! Local medical students get residency assignments

Published: Mar. 17, 2023 at 6:12 PM CDT
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PEORIA (25News Now) - In the final step before they receive their medical degree, more than 50 soon-to-be doctors received their assignments for residency programs across the country.

The 54 students from the University of Illinois College of Medicine in Peoria were assigned to 19 different states and 16 different specialties, like obstetrics, radiology, or family medicine.

Fourth-year medical students applied to programs months earlier. Students are interviewed by residency program doctors, then they rank their top choices. Hospitals rank their top students in return. Then, a national algorithm makes the final decision. That’s sealed within an envelope.

Nationwide, those envelopes are opened at the exact same time.

Envelopes were passed to students a few minutes before the fateful opening. With nervous smiles, students tightly gripped their envelopes, surrounded by the parents, partners, and children who have supported them.

The crowd counted down. At eleven, the sound of ripping paper was scattered through the room, then claps, and full-throated cheers.

For some students, like Nmerichi Kwakanma, it’s the realization of a lifelong goal. Kwakanma was born in Nigeria and moved to the United States at 10 years old.

Her mother was a doctor in Nigeria and owned a midwifery clinic to help deliver babies. Kwakanma said she was surrounded by medicine and doctors, she lived in the home above the clinic.

When she started pursuing medical school, she did not want to follow in obstetrics and gynecology like her mother. Two years into her education, when her aunt died in childbirth, she changed her mind.

“I think my mom played a significant role in my formative years to get me to this point,” Kwakanma said, “and then everything else in my life just kind of led me to an OBGYN.”

Kwakanma was everyone’s cheerleader, sharing hugs and hyping up her fellow students. She will complete her residency at the University of Cincinnati, studying obstetrics and gynecology. She will be joined by her fellow medical student and fiance Matthew Kerr. He’s specializing in preliminary surgery.

Other students are much closer to home.

Caleb Henderson is a Peoria native. He grew up, attended high school, and got his undergraduate degree all in the Peoria area. He currently lives here with his wife and near his family.

Henderson specializes in emergency medicine and will complete his residency downtown at OSF St. Francis.

“A lot of times the medications and interventions we provide have an immediate positive effect, so you get to hold their hands and be with them through those really tough times,” Henderson said.

Several students said they weren’t sure if they would make it their Match Day, saying that medical school is tough academically and emotionally. Henderson and Kwakanma said having a strong support system from family and fellow students pushed them through.

“It takes a village, I think that’s how I would describe it. Everyone literally pushes you to that finish line,” Kwakanma said.

“It has been very very hard, but I think over time with the support of faculty with the support of other students and of course, my wonderful wife has been really really helpful in helping that process along,” Henderson said.