With visibly shaking hands, University of South Florida medical student Chris DeClue opened his envelope.
The sound of rustling paper echoed through the speakers.
“USF. Diagnostic radiology,” he said as the crowd erupted into cheers.
Friday was National Match Day and 128 USF students, the school’s largest ever medical class to celebrate, gathered at Ulele, a restaurant near downtown Tampa, to find out where they're going to do their post-graduate medical training.
One by one, they walked to the small stage and opened a sealed envelope. Each student announced their discipline and where they'll be completing their residency.
Jaime Webber, who grew up in St. Pete, was relieved when hers said she'd stay at USF to do internal medicine.
"This has been the longest week of my life,” Webber said. “It's very odd because they tell you Monday that you matched, but then you have to wait the entire week to figure out where. It's a pretty big deal to up your entire life, move and go somewhere else so I'm glad I get to stay."
Webber was among more than 41,000 U.S. and international students who applied for more than 40,000 residency positions this year in 4,756 programs, according to the National Resident Matching Program.
Kira Zwygart, associate dean for student affairs and a family physician, said medical students spend most of their fourth year of medical school deciding on their specialty and where they want to complete their residency.
Students make a list of places they’re interested in going and, residency programs make a list of students they’re’ interested in having.
“This is the point where they’re really doing what they’ve been learning about all along,” Zwygart said. “They’re finally getting to be the doctor they set out to be four years ago. A lot of them are going to a brand new place somewhere in the country and often place this is where they’ll end up practicing when they finish.”
Vignesh Doraiswamy is one of those students leaving Florida. He’ll be completing a dual residency program for pediatrics and internal medicine a Penn State.
The night before Match Day, Doraiswamy's mother asked him why he, normally so calm and collected, was nervous about opening his envelope.
"So you go through 14 years of school, years of undergrad, four years of med school,” Doraiswamy said. “All of that leads up to this one moment. We're a lot older than a lot of our peers we went to college with and we're finally getting a job."
“It’s not a traditional way. You don’t apply and get an offer the day of. You leave it up to a computer and hope that the program you liked, liked you back.”
Doraiswamy and thousands of other residents nationally will spend the next three to seven years in an apprenticeship-like role honing their medical skills and knowledge before deciding where they’ll practice.
Most will practice in the state they finished their residency in. Others, like Doraiswamy, are open to coming back to Florida if the opportunity arises.