Jittery moments as UIC medical students find out where they will spend the next 6 years

Medical students nationwide found out Friday where they will do their residencies.

SHARE Jittery moments as UIC medical students find out where they will spend the next 6 years
Identical twins Gaia Santiago (center), 29, and Chiara Santiago open letters that reveal their residency programs during “Match Day” Friday at the University of Illinois-Chicago’s Isadore and Sadie Dorin Forum.

Identical twins Gaia Santiago (center), 29, and Chiara Santiago open letters that reveal their residency programs during “Match Day” Friday at the University of Illinois-Chicago’s Isadore and Sadie Dorin Forum.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

After four years of grueling 10- to 12-hour days, much of it spent online because of the pandemic, it all came down to the little white envelope in front of Benjamin Aronson on Friday morning.

“It’s a surreal thing. The next possible six years of my life are in this little envelope here, and I’m lost for words,” said Aronson, 29, as he and 165 other fourth-year University of Illinois College of Medicine students gathered to see where they would spend their residencies.

No wonder, then, that sweat pooled on Aronson’s brow before he opened his envelope and found out that he’d been accepted to UChicago Medicine.

“We’re over the moon,” said Aronson. By “we,” he meant his girlfriend, Ana Gonzalez, 27, who found out her residency will be at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

Ana Gonzalez, 27, who was accepted into Northwestern Memorial Hospital’s radiology program, hugs her boyfriend, Benjamin Aronson, 29, who is headed to UChicago Medicine.

Ana Gonzalez, 27, who was accepted into Northwestern Memorial Hospital’s radiology program, hugs her boyfriend, Benjamin Aronson, 29, who is headed to UChicago Medicine.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Medical students across the United States learned Friday where they’d be heading for residencies through the National Resident Matching Program, a nonprofit organization that seeks to match students’ preferences with those of residency program directors.

Aronson had applied to 80 hospitals, Gonzalez about 90; both were delighted to be staying in Chicago.

Gonzalez’s parents had flown in from Mexico City to be at UIC Isadore and Sadie Dorin Forum on Friday. It was an especially emotional moment for Gonzalez, who was born in Mexico. Her grandfather Manuel Cardoso, who died in 2016, had come from Mexico to Chicago for his radiology residency. He then returned to Mexico to practice.

“He would be so proud,” Gonzalez said. “He really gave his life to radiology.”

Chiara and Gaia Santiago, identical twins from River Forest, have done everything together. They even graduated co-valedictorians from Oak Park and River Forest High School. They both hope to be pediatric plastic surgeons. And they were both hoping Friday to be residents at the same hospital.

“It would be one in a million if we do,” said Gaia Santiago, 29, moments before they opened their envelopes.

“Her nervousness is making me nervous,” said Chiara Santiago.

They didn’t quite get their one-in-a-million dream, but close enough. Chiara Santiago is staying at UIC, while her sister is heading to the University of Chicago.

“We’re just happy we’re in Chicago,” said an ecstatic Chiara Santiago, as she and her sister hugged.

Although this class of graduates completed much of the work during the pandemic — and at a time when many medical professionals have complained of being overwhelmed — a sense of optimism filled the forum Friday.

“It definitely made me scared for my own health at times, but that’s something we knew since the start. That’s a risk you are willing to take to become a doctor,” Gonzalez said.

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