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Letters to the Editor

The Virtual Match: A New Approach to Celebrating Students During Social Distancing Due to COVID-19

Boysen-Osborn, Megan MD, MHPE; Youm, Julie PhD; Le-Bucklin, Khanh-Van MD, MEd

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doi: 10.1097/ACM.0000000000003605
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To the Editor:

Like many medical schools in the United States, the University of California, Irvine, School of Medicine canceled its traditional Match Day ceremony due to COVID-19. Acknowledging the disappointment associated with the cancellation of this seminal event for medical students, we sought to capture as many meaningful aspects of the in-person ceremony as possible through a virtual video conference event.

We anticipated several challenges in planning this virtual event. Namely, we were concerned about technically managing a large number of participants and creating excitement during a virtual event. Coincidentally, the concept of “zoombombing” was first introduced during Match Week this year.1

To build excitement for the event, during Match Week, we distributed gift bags to students containing various celebratory items. On Match Day, the associate dean for students (M.B.O.) hosted the event on campus, with a small media team and videoconference monitor. Other school leadership joined the event remotely to adhere to social distancing protocols.

A few technical decisions contributed positively to the event’s success. For example, we invited only graduating seniors and select faculty leadership to join the video teleconference, which allowed for better technical control and avoiding unwanted guests (“zoombombers”). We livestreamed our virtual Match Day event for family, friends, fellow students, and faculty on Panopto. For bandwidth considerations, we divided students into announcement groups of 10 or less. When each group was called, we invited them to turn on their audio and video. We called on each student individually, then students in the same group celebrated together after each announcement.

Of our eligible graduating students, most (81%) chose to announce their results during the virtual Match Day event, which was slightly more than during past in-person events, although very few chose to “open” their results on camera. Most students had family, friends, or fellow students co-located with them as they presented.

We encouraged students and viewers to use school-specific hashtags on social media, which we displayed on a sidebar during the livestream. One student wrote, “Virtual match day was so much fun!!! I’m so glad we were able to have a wonderful ceremony.”

As medical schools plan future virtual events, we feel that several elements may improve their quality: limiting the number of participants to the videoconference, livestreaming, creating announcement groups, encouraging a social media presence, and distributing celebratory items before the event.


1. Lorenz T. ‘Zoombombing’: When video conferences go wrong. The New York Times. Published March 20, 2020 Accessed July 8, 2020
Copyright © 2020 by the Association of American Medical Colleges