Marisa Peryer

As the coronavirus pandemic batters the country, the Yale School of Medicine’s graduating class is facing changes to commencement events as it prepares to enter their field of study at one of its most defining moments.

The Class of 2020 is seeing their last few months of medical school change drastically. “Match Day,” an event at the school where final-year students find out where they will be placed for their residency, was cancelled. Topics on the COVID-19 virus were added to the syllabus of their senior capstone course. Despite these developments, students are finding other ways to celebrate as they get ready to begin their residency during this global pandemic.

“Even though we are disappointed to miss out on a chance to celebrate, our class has been much more focused on the health crisis at hand and ways to help,” said Sarah Abdallah MED ’20, a graduating student. 

The senior capstone course, which all graduating students take together, has been moved online and adapted to include lectures about the coronavirus protocols in hospitals. The course usually includes stuff that will be most useful to you when you start residency, Dennis Wang MED ’20 said.

Students told the News they were disappointed to miss out on their Match Day ceremony, which is usually held in an auditorium where all of the students would open their envelopes with the results together. Still, they turned to technology to pull together to share the moment with each other. 

“The graduating class hosted a Zoom call so that everybody could celebrate together,” said  Wang. “It definitely felt anticlimactic, but when you find out where you are going to be for the next few years, there is still a ton of emotion and planning.”

The stress of starting a career is now compounded by the stress of starting a residency in the middle of a pandemic. Ysabel Ilagan-Ying MED ’20, who was matched with Yale New Haven Hospital, said as incoming residency interns, students know that the first year of training will be tough.

Students expressed mixed feelings about their role at upcoming residencies. Wang noted that it has been frustrating to see medical and public health students quarantined in their homes, especially when they could be helping the overwhelmed hospital staff. Ilagan-Ying said joining  the hospital staff at a time when they will be creating new protocols and restructuring the usual functioning is unnerving. 

“It is definitely nerve-wracking to be starting out in a more chaotic … time, but it’s also a chance to be more useful to patients and medical teams,” Abdallah said. “The prevailing sentiment seems to be an eagerness to join the ranks.” 

“This moment serves to show that health care work is so essential, and there is something very defined [we] can do to help,” Wang said. “This is why you go to medical school in the first place.”

The Yale New Haven Hospital COVID-19 hotline is (203) 688-1700.

Beatriz Horta | beatriz.horta@yale.edu