A Perfect Match: Doctors in the Making Learn Their Next Stop

Match Day pairs graduating School of Medicine students with their much-anticipated medical residency programs

Every year on the cusp of spring, thousands of fourth-year medical students across the U.S. receive the long-awaited news of where they will launch their careers as physicians. The third Friday of March, or Match Day, marks the end of months of interviewing for, then finalizing their preferred medical residency, internship, and fellowship programs.

This year, Tufts University School of Medicine students matched to medical institutions in 29 states. About 29% were matched in Massachusetts, 13% in California, another 13% in New York, and 21% matched with Tufts-affiliated hospitals. 

Here, four graduating medical students, who have distinguished themselves academically as well as through civic leadership in our communities, discuss what led them to pursue a career in medicine, the highlights of their medical school training, and where they will finally be able to utter the words, “I’ll be your doctor.”

Zachary Ivan Li, M24, (center) celebrates his residency placement in orthopaedic surgery at NYU Grossman School of Medicine in New York.

Zachary Ivan Li, M24, (center) celebrates his residency placement in orthopaedic surgery at NYU Grossman School of Medicine in New York. Photo: Alonso Nichols

Nicholas Verdini, M24, aspiring radiation oncologist

As an undergraduate at Emmanuel College, Nicholas Verdini, M24, had the misfortune of witnessing a best friend lose a child to cancer. The experience strengthened an existing interest in medicine, and upon graduation, led Verdini to complete a two-year stint as a research fellow at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). 

“There was the personal side of my desire to go into oncology,” Verdini says. “And then, it was my mentors at the NIH who really validated that I enjoyed oncology and caring for patients with cancer.” At Tufts, Verdini had the chance to briefly shadow a radiation oncologist, which helped further refine his goals. “I liked both that it’s very patient-centered—spending time with patients is important to me—and the fact that I’d be working with technology, using it to individualize treatment.”

Meanwhile, having lost a sister to opioid addiction, Verdini was instrumental during his first year at the School of Medicine in working to remove the Sackler family name from several Tufts buildings and programs. “The experience inspired me to become involved in other forms of advocacy and played a big role in my medical school journey,” he says.

Toward the end of Verdini’s third year, his father passed away. It was a harrowing time for the Massachusetts native, who then took a year off from Tufts to recenter and focus on research. As a radiation oncology clinical research fellow at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, Verdini worked on increasing patient enrollment for clinical trials in oncology, especially among people of color. The fellowship reinforced his enthusiasm for the field. “It seemed like every radiation oncologist I met was really happy and excited about their job,” Verdini says. “After my research year, I knew radiation oncology would be the right specialty for me.”

In the summer of 2020, Verdini, who is a Sam Ho Health Justice Scholar, led a study on the social determinants of health and their links between ethnicity and COVID-19, based on the demographics of Lynn, Verdini's hometown. The study, supported by the Tisch College of Civic Life, found that Hispanic patients were nearly three times as likely to contract COVID-19 as non-Hispanics. “It was interesting to do a research project so close to where I grew up,” Verdini says. “Lynn is incredibly diverse, and being aware of some of the hardships patients were experiencing, it was very personal and an opportunity for which I’m grateful.”

His match: Stanford University. “I’m very excited and grateful to all the mentors I’ve had. Stanford is a pioneer in radiation oncology, and I’m looking forward to learning from the incredible faculty there.”

Fourth-year medical students gathered with families and friends on Match Day at Tufts University School of Medicine.

Fourth-year medical students gathered with families and friends on Match Day at Tufts University School of Medicine. Photo: Alonso Nichols

Shantiera Taylor, M24, aspiring general surgeon

One of the highlights of medical school for Shantiera Taylor, M24, has been the time she spent dedicated to community service. After her first year at Tufts, Taylor, who is from Chicago, applied to become a part of the school’s Health Care Alliance for the Homeless club, in which medical students join Boston’s Health Care for the Homeless Program to practice street medicine. 

Through a Tisch Summer Fellowship, Taylor worked closely with her mentor, physician David Munson, M09, to care for homeless patients, treating wounds, providing train vouchers, and administering antibiotics on the street. “I thought it was great to be able to dismantle those access barriers and decrease that power dynamic between provider and patient,” Taylor says. “Because a lot of the time, people are coming into an office that they're not comfortable in. Here, we were meeting them where they were.”

Assisting patients in a needle exchange program in response to a hepatitis outbreak was particularly illuminating for Taylor. “We had a lot of pushback from the community members, even from the government,” she says. “People thought we were promoting drug use. But our approach was, if you're going to use, we’d rather you do it with clean needles as opposed to reusing needles and increasing the risk of contracting diseases.”

A former kinesiology major at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Taylor is still fascinated by human movement and human anatomy. She plans to focus on general surgery during her residency. “I’m looking forward to being able to see a patient preoperatively and really understand their symptoms, to look at the anatomy and ask, ‘How can we make this person better?’” Taylor says. “Then to meet with them post-operatively and see them completely change, be free to do things they weren't able to do before, such as going back to work or cooking for family members, is so fulfilling.”

Continuing in the vein of service, Taylor is also the founder of the nonprofit Medical Student Doulas Program, which trains medical students to provide emotional and physical birthing support to patients at Tufts Medical Center. She is thankful to the Tufts community for providing full funding for the program. “This has been a truly rewarding experience, and I hope the program continues to elicit positive change. And over time, helps decrease maternal mortality.”

Her match: Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center. “I'm ecstatic. The opportunity to train within a program that serves the diverse communities I hold dear is truly a dream come true and an honor beyond words.”

Olivia Lucey, M24, matched in anesthesiology at Mass General Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

Olivia Lucey, M24, matched in anesthesiology at Mass General Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. Photo: Alonso Nichols

Kali Sullivan, M24, aspiring obstetrician-gynecologist

Before enrolling in medical school, Kali Sullivan, M24, spent time working at a private practice in general surgery. She loved the work, but was soon surprised at the amount of waste she saw being created there. “A lot of my hobbies are around being outdoors, and many of my friends were environmental biology majors,” Sullivan says. “When I started working at the hospital, I was really impacted by how much waste was being generated. I started doing more research into health care’s impact on the environment, and also on how the environment impacts health.”

Sullivan, who grew up in Wilmington, Delaware, and graduated from Georgetown University with a B.S. in finance, became well-versed in the industry’s effects on the planet. “In a hospital, there’s so much focus on providing care that people don’t think about the indirect impact on the environment, which is hard to quantify. People are concerned about infection risk, even though various studies have shown that there are alternatives to single-use plastics.”

Hospitals themselves, she says, can be a significant greenhouse gas emitter, with buildings often being old and inefficient. “It’s the flip side of a system that supports people’s health, in that it can also be detrimental to it.”

Through an education intramural grant, Sullivan was able to teach her peers about the impact of health care on the environment. She has received a handful of awards for her activism, including, mostly recently, the U.S. Public Health Service’s Excellence in Public Health Award, which recognizes medical students’ contributions to the country’s fight against disease. On track to receive an M.D. and a Master’s in Business Administration upon graduating, Sullivan hopes to parlay her knowledge of health care law and policy into future meaningful action. “Over the long run, I’d like to continue to work and use my MBA in this sphere to try and ultimately improve health care systems, so that they can be more sustainable and have fewer health impacts on people.”

During a third-year rotation in OB-GYN, Sullivan stumbled upon her specialty of choice: obstetrics and gynecology. “I just fell in love with the patient population, and I liked that there was so much variety in the field: emergency medicine, surgery, primary care,” she says. “And generally, in my experience, it’s attracted pretty passionate and social-justice-oriented providers. There are so many avenues for advocacy.”

Her match: Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center. “I fell in love with the program at a pre-application info session, and I’ve been overwhelmed by the kindness and excitement from the residents there. I'm looking forward to meeting everyone in person and joining this wonderful community!”

Omar Trad, M24, reacts to being matched in internal medicine at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston.

Omar Trad, M24, reacts to being matched in internal medicine at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. Photo: Alonso Nichols

Laura Lodolo, M24, aspiring emergency medicine physician

A moment Laura Lodolo, M24, of Sunnyvale, California, most anticipates in residency is one in which she’ll be able to tell her first patient, “I’ll be your doctor.” Lodolo’s decision to become a physician grew from a combined love of science along with a desire to work closely with people from all walks of life.

The California Polytechnic State University graduate will leave the School of Medicine with a dual degree in medicine and a Master’s of Public Health. She credits her chosen path to a college class on the criminal justice system, in which she visited and developed relationships with women incarcerated in a local jail. “It was the first time I’d interacted with people from backgrounds quite different from my own,” Lodolo says. “We talked about what it means to make choices as a young white cisgender female versus someone from a different background, asking, ‘Would they be where they are now had their circumstances been different?’” In addition to connecting with the women, Lodolo offered regular yoga instruction at the jail. "It was wonderful to give people this space that benefited both their minds and bodies."

Lodolo has kept up her work with people who are incarcerated over the course of her time at Tufts. From 2020 to 2022, she served as co-president of the Phoenix Project, a program that delivers health education to individuals serving sentences at the South Bay House of Correction. “Many people were dealing with chronic diseases like hypertension and diabetes, and they wanted to know how to maintain their health in that environment. What were the best foods to eat given their options?” she says. “We were able to distribute pamphlets on nutrition that included sample meals, as well as give advice on controlling diabetes when they return to their lives outside jail. The participants in the workshop were really grateful.”

While Lodolo is set to work in emergency medicine as a medical resident, and sees herself in that area long term, she still believes in the importance of preventative care, particularly among vulnerable populations. “I think preventative health is one of the biggest differences you can make for populations that don’t have easy access to medical care. When someone is incarcerated, there are systems in place where they can get testing done. But once they’ve returned to the community, getting a flu vaccine maybe isn’t their main focus. It’s, ‘How am I going to find shelter? How am I going to feed my kids?’ It's a complicated process and one where fostering trust is important.”

On the threshold of her career as a physician, Lodolo is eager to foster trust among her own patients. “I won’t be a medical student on rotations anymore," Lodolo says. "Instead, I'll be meeting patients, diagnosing them, and prescribing medications. It’ll be a big shift, but one I’m looking forward to, building the confidence to do all of that.”

Her match: Boston Medical Center. “I couldn’t be happier to match at my top choice program that aligns with my values and the compassionate care I wish to provide to patients.”

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