Student battling cancer finds match at hospital where he is being treated

Student battling cancer finds match at hospital where he is being treated

Match Day is a mixture of anticipation, excitement and sometimes disappointment. On the same day and at the same time every year, medical students learn where they will be doing their residency following graduation.

“It is definitely a big surprise for a lot of people,” said Chris Stillwell, director of student services for the UW School of Medicine and Public Health.

Medical students begin the process nearly a year before Match Day by creating a list of hospitals and institutions where they would like to do their resident work. After interviews, the students create a list, ranking the institutions by preference. The institutions do the same, listing the students they would like to work with by preference. The lists are put into a computer, and the matches are created.

Reality lays between where the students want to go and where they’re accepted.

“There is a reality, and it is an unfortunate reality, that students may not get their first choice,” Stillwell said.

While all students are strongly encouraged to list several preferred institutions, this year one student’s list contained just one hospital. 

It is the same hospital where doctors are currently working to save his life.

“I wasn’t feeling too well and found out I had lymphoma,” said Matt Hoffman, an otolaryngology student.

Hoffman was diagnosed with lymphoma in December while visiting and interviewing with a hospital he was interested in for his residency.

In January, Hoffman began six months of chemotherapy treatment at UW Hospital.

It also made UW Hospital his one and only choice for residency. 

“I only ranked one program, which is a bit odd, but I only ranked the University of Wisconsin, as my treatment will overlap at the beginning of my residency,” Hoffman said.

When he opened his white envelope on Match Day, Hoffman officially learned he had been accepted by the University of Wisconsin. 

“It was still a special moment given the things that have happened over the last few months, and I’m excited to continue working with people that I really enjoy,” Hoffman said.

This year, approximately 150 UW students participated in Match Day and were paired with health care institutions across the country. They will spend between three to seven years as residents. While the knowledge gained at the UW School of Medicine and Public Health is invaluable, residency will further prepare them for a career in health care.

“Residency is when you learn how to become a doctor,” Stillwell said.