Pharmacy Match Day Signals a New Beginning for Fourth-Year PharmDs

Students in the University of Arizona Doctor of Pharmacy program participated in Match Day on Friday, March 19 exceeding national rates of placement for pharmacy residencies.

Of the UArizona students who are set to earn their pharmacy doctorates this spring and who applied for postgraduate year one pharmacy residency training, 65.3 percent were successfully matched, above the national average. In addition, of those who were seeking year two residencies, 17 were matched.

Residencies are highly competitive and there are not enough positions in the US for the number of those seeking residencies, and that gap continues to widen. Last year, only 62% of applicants matched in Phase 1,” explained Mike Katz, PharmD, professor and director of residency programs at the College of Pharmacy. “Of course, some programs are more competitive than others, with well-known programs often receiving 30-50 applicants per position.”

Match Day, the culmination of a complex yearlong process that matches the nation’s graduating Doctor of Pharmacy students with residency programs, happens each year on the third Friday in March. The College of Pharmacy has sponsored pharmacy residency programs since 1975 and collaborates with affiliated health care institutions. With more than 40 years of experience training pharmacy residents, the program has evolved into one of the largest and most prestigious in the nation. A variety of postgraduate year one and postgraduate year two programs, including an international program, account for an average of 30 graduates every year.

“For many, residencies are an opportunity to gain additional clinical training in a particular area of pharmacy practice,” described AMY KENNEDY, PHARMD, BCACP, associate professor and chair of the Residency-Fellowship preparation program at the College. “One year of residency has been equated to three years of practice as a new practitioner in terms of accelerating the learning curve.”

The College’s pharmacy doctoral program follows a four-year curriculum. During the first half of their fourth year in the program, students can apply for positions at residency programs, and then interview in January and February with program directors, faculty and residents. By the early March deadline, students submit their list of choices in order of preference – and concurrently residency program directors submit their rank-ordered lists of preferred candidates – to National Matching Services. A computer algorithm then uses those preferences to match students with residency programs.

Since it was launched in 2011, the residency-fellowship preparation program at the College of Pharmacy has helped students prepare for the postgraduate training application process. The program is led by Dr. Kennedy, and was created in an effort to provide support, guidance and mentorship to fourth-year pharmacy students planning to apply for postgraduate residency or fellowship programs.

The program was developed to help our students be as competitive a residency candidate as possible in a highly competitive environment, and to help them navigate the very complicated residency application process,” said Dr. Katz. “The overall result has been an increase in the number of our students who match for residencies.”

As part of this program, students attend sessions led by faculty, preceptors, as well as former and current residents to discuss topics pertaining to the residency/fellowship application process, including program selection, application and document preparation, and interview skills. Students are paired with designated faculty or preceptor mentors regarding the application process, candidacy, strategies in application and program selection, and finally interviewing.

Finding Their Match

For fourth-year students at the College of Pharmacy, the weeks leading up to Match Day can be filled with a variety of emotions. “While I am excited and nervous about what will unfold on Match Day, I have been overwhelmed with gratitude for the steadfast love and support I have received from my family, friends, and mentors,” expressed fourth-year PharmD student Aereyana Beaudrie-Nunn prior to being matched into a PGY1 residency at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN.

“It was a mix between feeling excited, nervous, and some sense of relief knowing I was done with applications, interviews, and figuring out my rank list. Now that it’s over I am extremely excited and humbled to have this opportunity,” explained Gabriella Gambadoro who matched with Banner University Medical Center – Tucson.

It was so stressful for me that I had to ask my fiancé to open the match email for me because I was so nervous,” described Atefeh Sharif who matched with Banner University Medical Center Phoenix. “But I reminded myself either way if I match it is great, but if not, this is not the end of the world and I still can be a clinical pharmacist who provide outstanding care to her patients.”

These two weeks tested not only each participant’s nerves, but also their reason for wanting to pursue a pharmacy residency program to begin with.

“Many may go into residency to improve their skills, but for me it was the desire to help others and to learn more not just for the sake of my own skills but more importantly so that I can help and advocate for my patients,” mentioned Victor Ruiz who matched into a PGY1 program at Tucson Medical Center.  

“By becoming a residency-trained pharmacist, I’m hoping to learn not only how to become an exceptional clinician, but more so how I can become an effective member of the health care community while serving the most medically vulnerable patients,” described Demi Ocaño who matched into a program with Fry’s Pharmacy & Midwestern University. “For me, residency training is another form of self-investment.”

While the feelings surrounding match day can be overwhelming, the real story begins once the excitement has worn off and students can focus on the next phase of their career in pharmacy and what motivated them to start this journey in the first place. This is a full circle moment for many of them, and

“It is impossible to say exactly what inspired me to revere pharmacy as a career, but after considering what a life of purpose entails for me, I realized my desire to be a pharmacist was neither about salary, nor prestige,” explained Beaudrie-Nunn. “It’s about applying my strengths and compassion for others, in collaboration with a dynamic healthcare community, to serve the best interest of patients.”

“Being involved in the care of my grandmother ‘Yeya’ is what inspired me to pursue a career in pharmacy, particularly with the goal of serving older adults,” explained Bianca Ortiz who matched into a program with the Phoenix VA Health Care System. “Losing her during pharmacy school was hard, but it reminded me to stay resilient and continue working hard to reach my goals.”

For students just starting out in Pharmacy school who are considering residency, fourth-year Ian Kazemnia who recently matched with Banner University Medical Center – Tucson had some advice, “Focus on your didactics and build the best understanding you can. Keep your desire to learn burning!”