Match Day Brings Celebration as Medical Students Glimpse Their Futures

Women Med Students holding up signs that say where they matched
Students from Robert Wood Johnson Medical School learned where they will complete their residencies in surgery on Match Day.
John O'Boyle

Along with thousands of peers across the United States, Rutgers medical school students open envelopes to learn where they will complete their residencies

Esther Jang had often thought about becoming a doctor, but her passion for healing grew after she survived a deadly plane crash.

Then 14 or 15, Jang was with her parents and two younger siblings on an Asiana Airlines flight from South Korea when it crash-landed on a San Francisco runway. Three passengers were killed in the 2013 crash of the Boeing 777, and Jang’s parents were seriously injured.

At a nearby hospital, Jang found solace in the medical team, whose members answered her questions and offered support. Later, at a facility in her home state of Colorado, she was invited to shadow her mother’s surgeons, who were providing treatment for spinal compression fractures and knee injuries.

“When the emotions of the situation really hit me, the people who were able to give me the most comfort were the physicians,” recalled Jang, who will graduate from Rutgers New Jersey Medical School (NJMS) in Newark in May. “That’s the kind of impact I want to have in my life, and becoming a doctor will help me do that.”

During an annual nationwide event known as Match Day on March 15, Jang was among thousands of medical school students — including Kemi Alabi and Justin Montague at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School (RWJMS) in New Brunswick — who found out which hospitals had accepted them as residents. Gathered on campuses across the United States, the students simultaneously opened envelopes to learn the news.

At RWJMS, 97 percent of the 159 graduating students who participated matched to a program of their choice, compared with the national average of 93.5 percent. Thirty-six RWJMS students will stay in New Jersey to do their residencies, 24 of whom will train at either NJMS or RWJMS. Others will do their residencies at prestigious programs including Massachusetts General, Stanford, New York Presbyterian Hospital-Columbia University Medical Center, Yale and Mayo Clinic.

At NJMS, 95 percent of the 156 graduating students matched, with 62 students staying in New Jersey and 44 of those doing residencies at either NJMS or RWJMS. Others will complete their residencies at prominent hospitals including Cornell, Johns Hopkins and Cleveland Clinic.

“We are immensely proud of our students who matched today in residency programs throughout the United States,” said Robert L. Johnson, dean of NJMS. “This accomplishment underscores their hard work, dedication, tenacity and unwavering commitment to fostering medical excellence. On this Match Day, we not only celebrate this pivotal milestone, but also the vast knowledge and skill set that our students will bring into the medical field.”


Kemi Alabi was inspired to study medicine by the care she received when she and her family fled civil war in Liberia.
Nick Romanenko/Rutgers University

Kemi Alabi
Match: University of California San Francisco

Like Jang, Kemi Alabi was inspired to become a doctor after surviving a traumatic experience. Growing up in Liberia during a time of civil war, she and her family were injured when rebel troops raided their home, so they were sent to a refugee camp for care.

“From a very early age,” she said, “I knew that I wanted to go into medicine and touch the lives of people in the same way that my life and the lives of my family members were touched by the nurses and the doctors at the refugee camps.”

During medical school, Alabi gave back by serving as student director of programming at RWJMS’s Homeless and Indigent Population Health Outreach Project (HIPHOP) community health initiative and establishing a White Coats for Black Lives chapter at RWJMS so that future doctors will be better prepared to grapple with structural racism that affects patients. She also co-founded the Girls Exploring Medicine and STEM program at Franklin Middle School.

Finally, as a medical operations and logistics officer in the New Jersey National Guard during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, she spent a year helping to deploy 5,000 soldiers across New Jersey, Connecticut and New York City to coordinate COVID testing.

Elected to the Alpha Omega Alpha (AOA) and Gold Humanism honor societies and the winner of multiple scholarships who earned her undergraduate degree in biomedical sciences from Sam Houston State University in her home state of Texas, Alabi plans to become a critical-care anesthesiologist, drawn by the opportunity to be both an advocate and a source of comfort for patients who are sick and frightened.

Although her mother and sister — her biggest supporters — were unable to attend the ceremony, Alabi was surrounded by friends and family when she learned she had matched into the combined anesthesiology and critical care program at the University of California San Francisco.

“This was my No. 1 rank, so I feel incredibly grateful to have matched here, especially since this track only had two spots,” she said.

Justin Montague standing on a staircase
Growing up in Philadelphia, Justin Montague developed an interest in public health as he noticed how health disparities affected his community.
Nick Romanenko/Rutgers University

Justin Montague
Match: University of Pennsylvania

Gathered with his wife, 4-month-old son, parents and mother- and father-in-law on the Piscataway campus of RWJMS, Montague considered Match Day a milestone in his journey toward becoming the first doctor in his family.

Growing up in Philadelphia, Montague developed an interest in public health as he noticed how health disparities affected his community.

“I think I’m suited for internal medicine because I enjoy talking to patients on a really deep level and getting their whole story, and I’m intrigued by how this specialty is uniquely positioned to bring a multifaceted team together to attack not only the medical but the social needs patients have,” said Montague, who earned his undergraduate degree in biochemistry from Loyola University in Maryland and plans a subspecialty in cardiology or endocrinology.

Montague prepared to meet that goal by working at the HIPHOP community health initiative, where he helped medical students learn to follow up with patients after discharge to prevent lapses in their care. He also received a Fulbright Fellowship to study Chile’s successes in battling childhood obesity.

Montague was thrilled to learn that he had matched at the University of Pennsylvania, his top choice.

“I feel extremely honored to have the opportunity to train at an outstanding program like Penn,” he said. “It means even more to be able to bring my family home to Philadelphia. I’m excited to join the Penn family and looking forward to the start of intern year.”

Esther Jang learns where she will match during New Jersey Medical School's Ceremony
Esther Jang's passion for healing grew after she survived a deadly plane crash.
Keith B. Bratcher Jr.

Esther Jang
Northwestern University

Jang, a member of the AOA and Gold Humanism honor societies who volunteered at NJMS’s Student Family Health Care Center, which offers free health care to the Newark community, learned she had matched at her top choice, Northwestern University. She was accompanied at the school’s Newark campus by her parents, siblings and some close friends.

Jang plans to specialize in physical medicine and rehabilitation, focusing on the use of adaptive equipment and techniques to improve patients’ ability to function after illnesses or injuries.

“I feel a huge sense of relief,” Jang said. “It has been a long journey, and I am so thankful for all my supporting friends, family and mentors along the way who have helped make all this possible. I’m super excited for my next chapter at Northwestern and feeling extremely blessed and hopeful for the future!”

Amy P. Murtha, dean of RWJMS, called Match Day “a testament to the immense dedication our medical students have invested in a future committed to the care of others.”

“We are incredibly proud of their achievements, reflected not only in their impressive overall match results but also in securing positions within esteemed and competitive residency programs,” she said. “The Class of 2024 embodies the excellence of our medical school’s missions, values and vision.”