SALT LAKE CITY — "The Final Countdown," by Europe, blasted through speakers while 115 University of Utah School of Medicine soon-to-be graduates located envelopes labeled with their name as they gathered Friday morning.
Inside, it would be revealed where they'll complete their residency.
"I felt like I was going to throw up," said Simran Kaur, who will be completing an obstetrics and gynecology residency at Stanford University — her No. 1 choice. "I felt some sort of mixture of nausea and anxiety and excitement."
At the podium in front of the Rice-Eccles Stadium reception room, a voice called out "now," signalling students to, after months of anticipation, open their envelopes.
Screams erupted all over the room and emotions ran high as friends and family hugged, wiped away tears and congratulated their future doctors.
The annual tradition, which takes place across the country, is known as Match Day, where medical students who placed in residency programs find out where they'll be for the next few years.
Of the 115 U. students (69 men, 46 women), 44 will be entering primary care residencies and 24 students will complete all or a portion of their residency training in Utah.
In all, the seniors matched into 93 programs in 22 specialties across 31 states and one province.
"I feel so excited and so happy, I can't even believe it," Kaur said with tears in her eyes. "It feels incredible. I picked it as my first choice not thinking that I would get it, it's such a competitive program, but when I read that I'm going to Stanford, I just can't believe it."
Born and raised in Utah, Kaur has never lived anywhere else.
"It feels weird," she said about leaving the state. "Utah is my home, it will always be my home."
But she said she's excited for the journey — she has a lot of family in the Bay Area and her best friend, Maryana Boulos, also matched in California just one hour away.
The two were close through medical school and worried they'd have to travel far to see each other.
"Now that we're going to be an hour apart, it's amazing," said Boulos, who will attend one of her top choices, Contra Costa Regional Medical Center in California completing a family medicine residency. "This is a fantastic program and it has so many opportunities for me. Even though this is my first time leaving home, I think it will be perfect for me."
Before students opened their envelopes, Dr. Teresa Ota, president of the U. School of Medicine Alumni Association, shared some advice.
"Enjoy the ride, keep your sense of humor and laugh often," she told the audience. "Wherever your match takes you, please remember to take care of yourself."
Medical students apply to hundreds of different programs and can get into their top program, one they were unsure about, or their bottom choice.
"It's surreal," said Salt Lake native Luke Mirabelli, who will complete an internal medicine psychiatry residency at the University of Kansas — one of his top choices.
Mirabelli said he can't wait to start training in the program.
"Their ability to integrate both of the specialities and really create something that's going to change lives, I'm just so excited to be a part of that family."
The excitement in the room was palpable as students rushed around hugging and congratulating each other.3 comments on this story
"It's just so much pent-up energy of four years of hard work," Mirabelli said.
But, the anxiety is inevitable for most students.
"You just — it's hard to feel reassured until you have it in your hand," Boulos said.
Mirabelli described his experience as "super nerve-wracking but I'm really happy it worked out."
This day was long-awaited by most, and Kaur said she was happy her hard work paid off.
"I'm so happy and I've worked very hard the last four years and it feels so good that this is the end," she said.