The dean of Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine, standing before graduating students who were about to learn the next step in their medical careers, counseled against "Match Day" nervousness.
"What it is, it will be," Dr. Lawrence Smith told the 29 members of the medical school's founding class at Friday's noontime gathering. Then he asked them to open their envelopes and learn the name of the hospital where they will spend several years in intensive medical training.
"I'm so thankful, so happy," said a teary-eyed Christina Scelfo, 27, of Howard Beach, who was placed at Manhattan's Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in ophthalmology.
It was her first choice -- and also where her mother, Andrea Scelfo, works as a laboratory technician. "I'll get to see you," her mother said, hugging her daughter close.
"Match Day" is considered one of the most important days in a budding doctor's life. This year, 41,334 registrants nationwide, the largest number on record, vied for more than 30,000 residency positions, according to the National Resident Matching Program.
Similar celebratory events were held Friday at Stony Brook University, New York Institute of Technology College of Osteopathic Medicine in Old Westbury and other schools across the country.
At the Hofstra North-Shore LIJ medical school, the placement rate was 100 percent. About one-third of the graduating class will go to North Shore-LIJ Health System-affiliated teaching hospitals, Smith said. Others were matched with institutions such as Yale-New Haven Hospital, Duke University Medical Center and Vanderbilt University Medical Center.
"I think they did very well. It says that people trusted what we are doing here," Smith said, referring to the medical school, which admitted its first students in 2011.
Maxine Ames, 27, of Manhattan matched with her first choice -- pediatrics at Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia.
"I'm really excited. I just loved it there," she said. Her father, Steven Ames, said of his daughter and her classmates: "They work so hard, and you really want to see them succeed."
At Stony Brook, after a countdown, students tore open white envelopes and wrapped their arms around each other as 115 of them learned the cities and hospitals where they will be spending the next three to 10 years.
Kyeesha Becoats, 30, a Rochester native who lives in Mount Sinai, discovered she will be a resident at the University of South Florida. She plans to specialize in internal medicine and possibly cardiology.
"I screamed and I jumped and I gasped," said Becoats, who said she will reunite with her boyfriend in Florida. "I was just so excited. My boyfriend and I have been long distance for almost seven years."
Brian Persaud, 27, a Brooklyn native and former high school teacher, spent much of his time at Stony Brook developing a mentoring program that connects medical students there with Wyandanch teens. He said it was "surreal" to find out he got into his first choice -- Yale-New Haven Hospital -- where he plans to specialize in academic medicine and eventually teach medical students.
"To be very frank with you, I applied and I didn't think I had a fighting chance," said Persaud, who lives in Mineola. "A few of the doctors in this room made some phone calls, and I think that's what put me over the edge."
At NYIT College of Osteopathic Medicine's "Match Day" ceremony, Dean Wolfgang Gilliar told students to stand up and close their eyes before opening their letters in unison.
"Know wherever you go is where you are meant to be," he said.
Olivia Janssen, 25, of Sea Cliff said she was overwhelmed after learning of her match to Westchester Medical Center for pediatrics.
"It's really nice to be here together with everyone as we kind of go our separate ways," she said. "We all started from the same base, and now we're all going in different directions and kind of becoming who we are."