Doctors of the future: Pitt students celebrate Match Day .

Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC

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Samuel Brayer stood over a table cluttered with white envelopes, searching for one with his name on it. Inside was a letter that would tell him where he would spend the next several years of his medical career.

As the clock struck noon, Brayer, 31, a member of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine class of 2019, rushed to join his family and girlfriend for the big reveal: This summer, he’ll head to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital to work in pediatrics.

“It’s really exciting because you finally get to see the end of that process,” said Brayer, a 2006 graduate of Kiski Area High School who grew up in Washington Township.

Future doctors around the world — including 138 soon-to-be graduates of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine — participated in “Match Day” on Friday. It’s the moment they find out where they’ll be spending the next several years getting hands-on training in residency programs at teaching hospitals across the country. The rite of passage marks the end of years of schooling and the conclusion of a nearly yearlong journey to secure a spot in the training programs.

The match process is facilitated by the National Resident Matching Program, a nonprofit established in 1952 intended to provide a fair system for matching medical students to residency positions. It uses a computerized mathematical algorithm to match applicants to programs at teaching hospitals throughout the country.

In 2018, over 43,000 applicants registered for the match, and more than 33,000 positions were offered, according to data provided by the National Resident Matching Program.

This year, students from Pitt’s medical school class matched with programs across 21 states, including California, Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, Maryland, Missouri, New York, Ohio and Washington, said Joan Harvey, associate dean of student affairs.

About a quarter of the class matched with programs within the UPMC system, she said.

For many medical students, the process of securing a match actually started about a year ago, as they began preparing their applications for residency programs. After those were shipped off in the fall, they sat for interviews.

“It more or less determines your path, that you’ll be this type of doctor,” Zachary Ligus, 25, of North Huntingdon said.

The 2011 Norwin High School graduate applied to match with a residency in anesthesiology and is considering pursuing a career in obstetric anesthesiology. He’ll be heading to Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester, N.Y.

Some, like Ligus, sat for as many as 15 interviews throughout the winter across several programs around the country.

On Monday, students received emails from the National Resident Matching Program informing them if they matched with a program.

“It really has note of finality to it,” Ligus said, explaining that students are contractually obligated to attend the residency program they are matched with.

By June, many Pitt medical school students will have left Pittsburgh to start the next stage of their careers — one that involves a new set of challenges and a profound shift in mindset from student to doctor, said Akshaya Arjunan, 25, of Allison Park, president of the Pitt medical school class of 2019.

A 2011 graduate of North Allegheny High School, Arjunan will be staying in Pittsburgh for a residency at UPMC Children’s Hospital.

“At the end of this, you’re going to have patients’ lives on your hands,” she said.

Jamie Martines is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jamie at 724-850-2867, jmartines@tribweb.com or via Twitter .