Medical school Match Day goes digital

TAMPA, Fla Thu Mar 17, 2011 6:42pm EDT

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TAMPA, Fla (Reuters) - Laura Major couldn't eat chicken wings or drink beer with her brother at a smokehouse on Thursday while he and fellow medical school classmates waited to learn where they will spend their residency training.

But thanks to a livestream feed on Facebook, Major watched from her Tennessee home as younger brother John Emerson opened the envelope that revealed his placement.

"It was kind of like I was there," she said.

Medical schools across the country held simultaneous Match Day ceremonies on Thursday. Some gave the annual tradition a modern facelift that allowed students to share a pivotal moment in their medical careers with family and friends worldwide.

The University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine hosted a Match Day blog with personal reflections and video clips from three students.

They wrote about a selection process full of nerves and excitement that culminates with a piece of paper telling them where they will train for the next three to seven years.

"It really brought the larger Penn community into the process and sort of opened up a window into what these students are going through," said school spokeswoman Jessica Mikulski.

The University of South Florida College of Medicine in Tampa was one of the first to offer a full-fledged virtual and interactive experience, said Dr. Stephen Klasko, the school's dean.

At the event, staff members tweeted updates on laptops. Out-of-town viewers created avatars to watch the ceremony via Second Life. And three cameras rolled for the Web broadcast that captured the cheers and tears of students clad in green "Kiss Me! I Matched" T-shirts.

Emerson, 28, was grateful the technological advances gave his sister a chance to witness the action from afar.

"This is a pretty exciting day," he told the crowd before opening his envelope. "Probably the only time in my life that I'll be broadcast live on Facebook."

Then came more good news: Emerson received his preferred placement, a family medicine program in Charlotte, North Carolina.

That specialty remained a popular choice for the more than 16,000 U.S. medical school seniors matched with residency programs this year.

Family medicine programs saw the strongest growth among primary care specialities, followed by pediatrics and internal medicine, according to the National Resident Matching Program.

Other growth areas included emergency medicine, anesthesiology and neurology.

(Editing by Jerry Norton)

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