Kip Guja took a deep breath before carefully opening an envelope revealing his residency assignment, while most of his classmates at the Stony Brook University School of Medicine quickly tore into theirs.
But Guja beamed once he saw the results: He got his first choice. He will spend a preliminary year at Stony Brook’s teaching hospital, followed by a full radiology residency at Stanford University.
“I’m so excited and honored,” Guja, 33, of Babylon, said as his family jumped up and down and wiped away tears.
Guja, who has cerebral palsy and long known he wanted to be a doctor, was among more than 100 Stony Brook students to participate in the national Match Day, when graduating medical students find out where they will complete their residencies.
Across the country, 25,000 other students received their matches Friday in the emotional event. At New York Institute of Technology College of Osteopathic Medicine in Old Westbury, 282 students discovered the location of their residencies, while 74 students at Hofstra’s Northwell School of Medicine matched.
Residencies, which typically last three to four years, are one of the last stages in becoming a physician, and medical students often continue on to jobs at their assigned medical centers.
Students apply to several residency programs, and the programs choose who they are interested in accepting. But the magic of linking up students with their final assignment is done behind the scenes by the National Resident Matching Program.
The reveal typically is a celebratory moment.
“Elevated heart rates, tears, there’s lots of things happening. For years these students have been slaving over their studies,” said Dr. Kenneth Kaushansky, Stony Brook’s medical school dean. “It has huge impact on your life.”
Nikita Agrawal, 27, proudly clutched her assignment for her first-choice hospital, Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, where she will complete a residency in internal medicine.
“It’s all I’ve wanted for the past 10 years,” Agrawal, of East Setauket, said. “I’m the first doctor in my family.”
For Guja, Match Day was the culmination of nearly a decade of schooling, driven by his experience growing up with cerebral palsy and a desire to help others with musculoskeletal conditions.
As a child he was often underestimated, and endured five surgeries to correct problems in his legs and feet, he said.
“Whether it’s CP or something else, we all face challenges of one nature or another in life,” he said, noting his parents were determined to find an encouraging physician with a positive attitude.
The experience gave him a deep look into the medical field, sparking a passion for radiology and research. This May, he will graduate with a doctorate in biochemistry and structural biology, along with a medical degree.
Guja completed 13 published research papers while at Stony Brook, an impressive accomplishment that also extended his time at the school, said Dr. Michael Frohman, director of the MD/PhD program.
“We bring on kids who have potential and see them mature,” Frohman said. “To see him go off is a wonderful thing.”
Guja hopes to become a radiologist with specialty training in musculoskeletal radiology and nuclear medicine.
“He should be so proud of himself,” his mother, Patricia Guja of Bay Shore, said. “I knew he’d be able to help children with his same issues.”