Detroit — Dana Sugar said she was “a mess of emotion.”
After studying to be a doctor for eight years, the 27-year-old Wayne State University School of Medicine graduate learned Friday she was going to do her residency training at a hospital in Salt Lake City, Utah.
“There’s been so much time leading up to this,” she said. “There was so much ... suspense.”
Sugar was one of 267 WSU med school grads who were informed Friday where they will get in-depth training as resident physicians. She and her fellow graduates learned at a noon banquet at the MGM Grand Detroit Hotel where they were going during the school’s annual Match Day celebration.
They each were given bright yellow envelopes, which they opened at the same time. Inside, a letter told them the name of the hospital where they’ll train.
Sugar said she and her classmates learned they matched with a program on Monday but didn’t find out which one until the banquet.
“This is the pay off,” she said. “I finally got an answer.”
Sugar said she visited Salt Lake City to interview for the residency program and fell in love with it.
“I’m a rock climber. I’m a snowboarder,” she said. “Salt Lake City is so great for my quality of life. My heart wanted it.”
Thousands of medical school graduates across the country like Sugar also learned where they will train in residency programs.
This year’s crop of doctors — 35,969 U.S. and international medical school students and graduates — was the largest in history, according to the National Resident Matching Program. The class of 2017 vied for 31,757 positions, the most ever offered.
The national average of medical school graduates getting match to their preferred residency program is 94 percent.
More than 97 percent of WSU’s med school grads were matched with their preferred program, according to school officials. Last year, 95.8 percent of WSU grads were matched with their preferred residency site.
Jack Sobel, dean of the WSU’s School of Medicine, said he thinks there a few reasons Wayne State tops the national average.
“For one thing, I think it’s a reflection of the quality of students we accept to the school,” he said. “It’s also a function of the attention we pay to individual students in spite of the size of the class.”
Sobel also said 55 percent of the school’s graduates were also placed in programs in Michigan.
During WSU’s Match Day event in the main ballroom of the MGM Grand Detroit, more than 800 gathered to celebrate. The atmosphere was akin to a wedding reception, without the dancing. Everyone was dressed to the nines. Pop music blared and there were hugs all around. Graduates posed with classmates and family members while people snapped photos with their phones or cameras.
Jeff and Carol Small were beaming. Their daughter, Melissa Small, 26, of Detroit, was heading to a Harvard University-affiliated hospital in Boston.
“I’m very excited,” said Jeff Small, 57, of Rochester. “I’m always so proud of her. I knew she would make it and do whatever she wanted to do.”
Melissa Small said the anticipation of opening the envelope was killing her.
“You had to wait until it was exactly noon,” she said. “Then everyone is opening them, and once you’ve got it open, you’re trying to find on the letter where you’re going. It was a great surprise.”