Friday, March 17, 2023

By Saira Cabrera

RIO GRANDE VALLEY, TEXAS – The UTRGV School of Medicine's fourth-year medical students celebrated their hard work this annual Match Day, on Friday, March 17 – St. Patrick’s Day. Forty-five members of the Class of 2023 and four from the Class of 2022 matched to medical residency programs.

“Match Day is always an exciting day,” said Dr. Michael B. Hocker, senior vice president for UT Health RGV and dean of the UTRGV School of Medicine. “It's a day unlike any other in the life of a medical student.”

Match Day, a National Day of Transition, is when fourth-year medical students open and read their letters from the National Residency Matching Program (NRMP). The NRMP matches graduating students with available training positions at health systems around the country – getting them a step closer to becoming physicians.


According to Hocker, this year’s matches were not due to luck, but due to the hard work put in by those who matched and the expert medical education the School of Medicine provides through collaborative team learning and instilling cultural competency.

“It's not luck. It's hard work over the last four years culminating today where our medical students find out where they're going to train, what specialty they're training in, and where they're going to spend the next three to seven years of their lives,” Hocker said. “I wish them all the best of luck. Today is just the beginning.”

This year’s Match Day is number four for the academic medical institution – with nearly 150 total successful matches in the last four years.

Today’s in-person event brought together fourth-year medical students with classmates and close family members at the UTRGV Performing Arts Complex in Edinburg. The event was also live streamed via YouTube.

Fifty percent of the students matching this year will stay in Texas for their residencies, many of whom wish to come back to practice locally in programs sponsored by the School of Medicine in partnership with area hospitals and clinics.

Some of these programs across the state include UT Health Science Center in San Antonio; Methodist Hospital and Baylor College of Medicine in Houston; and UT Austin Dell Medical School in Austin, among others.

The other students, who will not be staying in Texas for their residencies, will be heading out across the country to prestigious institutions such as Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Tennessee; Harbor-UCLA Medical Center and UC Davis Medical Center in California; and SUNY Upstate Medical University in New York, among others.


“When a student matches to a residency program, one would say there's certainly some luck attached to it because there's so many applying, but beyond that, it’s how you prepare,” said Dr. Leonel Vela, UTRGV senior associate dean for Educational Resources and senior associate vice president for Education.

“To see our students succeed like this, it's kudos to them. To their dedication, hard work, the support they’ve received from our faculty – it's a whole team effort to get to this point. We’re so proud.”


Ruth Escalera – a first-generation college graduate from UTRGV, a Valley native and the first in her family to aspire to be a physician – feels empowered to continue her steadfast dream of becoming a physician due to the medical education she received and the support of her family.

She matched to the obstetrics-gynecology program at Texas Tech University Health Science Center - El Paso.

“I found out throughout the years that there's no such thing as luck. It's through my hard work and dedication that I'm here right now,” Escalera said. “I feel that it's just everything my parents have also worked hard for; I am a product of what they've accomplished. I am excited and happy I'm going somewhere and into the specialty that I chose.”

Saba Suleman, a UTRGV fourth-year medical student and a Valley native, looks forward to coming back to the Valley to serve the community she grew up in as a dermatologist within UT Health RGV and be part of academic medicine as a teaching and practicing physician.

She matched into a transitional year of training at Baylor Scott & White All Saints Medical Center-Fort Worth, a one-year Match program rotation to get exposure as a resident to different fields.

"This is a big step. The journey in medicine has always been difficult. It’s never been about luck; it’s always been about working hard. This is one great milestone that we've reached,” Suleman said. “Medical school was a big challenge, and I don't know how I would have gone through it, but my friends and family were a big pot of gold for me. I am excited for what’s to come.”


This class will soon be graduating in May, but until then, they know where they will be headed to after graduation.

“Today’s Match Day is a celebration for the whole Valley. A lot of our students are from the Valley, and that is what is also very fulfilling to see,” Vela said. “Now students have a choice to be able to stay here and pursue those dreams. Many will stay here or return to their community to serve, and that's a joy.”

While students rejoice in their hard work and success on this luckiest of Match Days, those who helped guide them along the way also celebrate this new generation of resident physicians by wishing them continued success.

“I hope that the luck of the Irish will be with our students. We wish you all the best in your journey,” Hocker said. “And for those who are getting to stay in the Rio Grande Valley, we look forward to having you continue to be part of our family. For all – make us proud and represent us well.”


The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) was created by the Texas Legislature in 2013 as the first major public university of the 21st century in Texas. This transformative initiative provided the opportunity to expand educational opportunities in the Rio Grande Valley, including a new School of Medicine, and made it possible for residents of the region to benefit from the Permanent University Fund – a public endowment contributing support to the University of Texas System and other institutions.

UTRGV has campuses and off-campus research and teaching sites throughout the Rio Grande Valley including in Boca Chica Beach, Brownsville (formerly The University of Texas at Brownsville campus), Edinburg (formerly The University of Texas-Pan American campus), Harlingen, McAllen, Port Isabel, Rio Grande City, and South Padre Island. UTRGV, a comprehensive academic institution, enrolled its first class in the fall of 2015, and the School of Medicine welcomed its first class in the summer of 2016.