At 11 a.m. Friday, members of the inaugural class of the University of the Incarnate Word School of Osteopathic Medicine erupted into screams and cheers in a school parking lot as their residency assignments landed in their email inboxes.

Medical school students and their loved ones honked car horns and rang cowbells as they celebrated UIW’s first-ever, socially distanced Match Day, the day medical school students across the country receive their residency assignments. The class of 137 students, who will graduate in May, worked four years for this day.

Rachel Amuzu was still shaking with excitement 15 minutes after receiving her residency assignment email. The 26-year-old will spend the next four years in New York at Nuvance Health, completing her obstetrics-gynecology residency.

“It feels like I’m floating,” she said, beaming in a “Black, Matched, Blessed” T-shirt. “I’ve been dreaming of this day since high school. I just want to keep jumping.”

Rachel Amuzu, right, celebrates her residency school match to Nuvance Health in New York with Shelby Brown on the campus of University of Incarnate Word's School of Osteopathic Medicine on Friday in San Antonio. Celebrated across the nation, “Match Day” is the day that students graduating from medical school find out where they will complete their residency. It was the first-ever Match Day at UIW as the inaugural class of 2021 prepares to graduate in May.
Rachel Amuzu, right, celebrates her residency school match to Nuvance Health in New York with Shelby Brown on the campus of University of Incarnate Word’s School of Osteopathic Medicine on Friday. Credit: Nick Wagner / San Antonio Report

Amuzu did 16 interviews, 13 in family medicine and three in OB-GYN, to receive her residency. Her first choice was an OB-GYN residency, but she also applied to family medicine residencies as a fallback option. Amuzu decided at a young age that she wanted to be an OB-GYN physician after shadowing one. She said she loved the close relationships OB-GYNs have with their patients because they care for them for life, from family planning to pregnancy.

Standing near a car with “Honk for Dr. Amuzu” written on a window, Amuzu said she almost didn’t go to the in-person Match Day event, but she was glad she did. The day holds additional importance for Amuzu as a first-generation college and medical school student. Her family is from Ghana, but she grew up in Houston before earning her bachelor’s degree at St. Mary’s University and then her master’s in biomedical science from UIW.

UIW students will spend their years in residency all over the country, from Texas to Virginia to Alaska. A map of the U.S. with gold stars representing students’ residency assignments hung on a wall inside the School of Osteopathic Medicine (SOM) auditorium. One by one, students posed in front of a UIW logo, holding large red signs that declared their residencies. Across the room, a projector screen displayed more than 360 Zoom attendees, including students, family, and faculty members. Students formed a line outside the auditorium after receiving their assignments, then posed for photos before walking onto the stage to announce their residencies to the room and on Zoom.

Balloons spell out "Congrats" to medical school students who received their residency school assignments during a "Match Day" event on the campus of University of Incarnate Word's School of Osteopathic Medicine on Friday in San Antonio. Celebrated across the nation, Match Day is the day that students graduating from medical school find out where they will complete their residency. It was the first-ever Match Day at UIW as the inaugural class of 2021 prepares to graduate in May.
Balloons spell out “Congrats” to medical school students who received their residency school assignments during a “Match Day” event on the campus of University of Incarnate Word’s School of Osteopathic Medicine on Friday. Credit: Nick Wagner / San Antonio Report

The sole gold star on Alaska represented Ste’von Voice’s residency assignment at Providence Hospital. Voice, 32, will spend three years there for his family medicine residency. He said he chose Alaska because he wants to eventually become an astronaut and wants to gain experience in an unfamiliar setting.

“I want to know how to be useful in extreme conditions,” Voice said. “I want NASA to know that I will go above and beyond.”

The Terrell, Texas, native has never been to Alaska. But Voice has a cousin there, so he will have at least one person to talk to, he joked. Voice got interested in becoming a doctor for astronauts – and eventually an astronaut – after clerking with NASA. He plans on joining the military after his residency.

Samuel Mota-Martinez, a native of Washington state, will stay in San Antonio for the next few years as he completes his family medicine residency at the Texas Institute for Graduate Medical Education and Research (TIGMER). TIGMER is a residency training center collaboration among community-based hospitals, federally qualified health centers, and the SOM.

Mota-Martinez, 29, applied for 14 different residency programs, from Texas to Washington to Florida. He hoped to find a program near his or his fiancé’s family in Florida, but he said he knew God had a plan for him to become the best physician he could be, wherever he landed.

The first year of Mota-Martinez’ residency mostly will be spent learning the basics of family medicine and shadowing attending physicians in clinics and hospitals. The second year he will take on helping first-year residency interns, and the third year Mota-Martinez will help lead the residency team. The idea is to go in learning and pass on the knowledge to other residents, he said. He’ll also be able to mentor SOM students.

“I’m excited for the opportunity to come back and support medical students,” he said.

Brooke Crum

Brooke Crum is the San Antonio Report's education reporter.