KU School of Medicine–Wichita
1010 N. Kansas
Wichita, KS, 67214
March 23, 2021
By Anne Christiansen-Bullers
When Peyton Harjo was 5 years old, she told her parents she was going to be a doctor. And on March 19, 2021, she (and thousands of other students like her) found out where that aspiration will be realized.
Harjo is a fourth-year medical student at the University of Kansas School of Medicine-Wichita. She joined medical students across the country to discover where they'll be working after graduation and in what specialization.
The yearly event, called Match Day, celebrates the simultaneous release of results from a national company. That company collects the preferences of medical students and matches them with the residency programs in hospitals and clinics.
The matches come only after residency programs conduct rigorous interviews and screening processes to find the best "fit" for their program. This year, the COVID-19 pandemic interrupted the usual face-to-face interviewing process. Medical students could get a "feel" for a program through Zoom sessions with faculty or social-media conversations with alumni. So, some recent medical graduates will start work in a place they've yet to see.
But the Class of 2021 met these challenges and more, according to Robert P. Moser, M.D., dean of the KU School of Medicine-Salina. In fact, he called the cohort "the class of change, the class of resiliency" in an outdoor ceremony in Salina.
Moser said the students were "change leaders" because they weathered the transition to the School of Medicine-Salina's new location, a change to a new curriculum and global pandemic that threatened to (but did not) derail their education.
"The students really have had a lot of challenges in their career, and I think they've faced it admirably," Moser said.
This year, graduating medical students in Wichita gathered at the Wichita State University Eugene M. Hughes Metropolitan Complex, where they announced in front of their peers where they would be going for residency training. Guests were excluded to keep numbers low, though the event was streamed on Zoom.
Of the 66 students at KU School of Medicine-Wichita who matched, 28 will stay in Kansas. The remaining 38 students will travel to 18 other states to continue their medical education. Half of this year's graduates in Wichita will go into a primary care field (family medicine, internal medicine, pediatrics), 14 to surgery, two matched to obstetrics and gynecology, three to anesthesiology, two to urology, one to psychiatry, four to radiology, one to child neurology, one to ophthalmology and five to emergency medicine residency programs.
"Getting a little crowded over there?" asked Garold Minns, M.D., dean of KU School of Medicine-Wichita, as he noticed a sunburst of pins in the Wichita area of the map. Later he told the students, "Despite all the impediments we've shared, I'm extremely excited where you all are going."
Change was also on the mind of Robert D. Simari, M.D., executive vice chancellor of the KU Medical Center. His congratulations shared via a Zoom meeting with medical students, faculty and staff of the KU School of Medicine-Kansas City, Kansas.
He, too, mentioned the change in School of Medicine curriculum. The wholesale replacement of curriculum focused on more active, competency-based and excellence-driven (ACE) goals, and the class of 2021 was the first to complete all four years using this new ACE curriculum.
"While many of you consider yourselves guinea pigs, we consider you pioneers," Simari said. "We put a tremendous amount of effort and resources into the ACE curriculum. And you put a tremendous amount of time and effort to make the curriculum better. We thank you for that."
Mark Meyer, M.D., senior associate dean for student affairs for the KU School of Medicine, ended the short Zoom meeting where students from the Kansas City, Kansas, campus could share their matches.
"We hope you know how much we relied on the feedback you gave us and your tolerance during the rocky times. But we never had any doubt that you all would rock this curriculum and put yourself in a position to be successful, as you have demonstrated today," Meyer said.
KU medical students had the opportunity to post their matches on the Instagram account kumatchday. That's where Harjo posted a photo of her Match Day present from her mother, a Jayhawk quilt.
"My mom made the KU Med T-shirt quilt in her downtime this year," Harjo said. "She ordered some of the shirts from the KU bookstore, but most she hand-made with fabric and lettering." And where did her mother learn how to quilt? From her daughter.
"I learned to quilt in high school and taught my mom when I was in college so she could make t-shirt quilts for my brother and me," Harjo said.
Harjo and the quilt will be staying in Kansas, since she matched in obstetrics and gynecology at the KU School of Medicine-Wichita.
"My mom is a nurse lactation consultant and childbirth educator, so I have grown up in the realm of labor and delivery," Harjo said. "I chose OBGYN because I wanted to be a part of some of the most exciting and vulnerable moments in my patients' lives."
Above, right: Peyton Harjo, a KU School of Medicine-Wichita student, holds her match letter in front of a quilt her mother made for her. Harjo will be completing her residency in obstetrics and gynecology in Wichita.
Above, left: The Jayhawk quilt Peyton Harjo's mother made for her is made up of KU T-shirts and fabrics.