Mara Rice-Stubbs, class president for fourth-year students of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, looked forward to Match Day since she started med school.
The celebration, held simultaneously at medical schools across the country each year in March, marks the moment when fourth-year med students learn where they’ll be spending the next three to seven years as residents to complete more training. Famously, the news arrives at a precise time in a white envelope, and most schools hold parties where students and families learn the news together.
Rice-Stubbs, a native of Pittsburgh, and her peers fundraised for four years to make their Match Day a celebration to remember. But when COVID-19 hit Pittsburgh, the students learned that their Match Day would need to be virtual.
“Match Day is a cumulative effort of your entire med school experience. It’s a big deal for med students, so we were pretty bummed about not having the celebration we planned for four years,” said Rice-Stubbs. However, she said that her class wanted to come together to “turn the negative into a positive.”
Rice-Stubbs and her peers decided to donate the funds they raised toward their Match Day celebration to local organizations that help the community during the COVID-19 crisis.
Ann Thompson, vice dean of the School of Medicine and professor of critical care medicine and pediatrics, said she was amazed by the students’ efforts.
“This year's graduating medical students have had their world turned upside down—none of the usual celebrations can happen, and they will enter the next phase of their training during a period of tremendous uncertainty,” said Thompson. “I am amazed, delighted and very proud that the students would turn their attention to the needs of the Pittsburgh community and inspire such generosity from each other and the medical school faculty.”
The making of a movement
Rice-Stubbs and the fourth-year students were soon joined by more med students—and then by faculty—to start a movement.
Rice-Stubbs said the School of Medicine’s second-year class president, Shaquille Charles, suggested that med school students in all four years join together and challenge faculty to match the students’ donations. “We wanted to turn generosity into a movement,” said Rice-Stubbs.
Recipients of the donations include the Birmingham Clinic, which provides free healthcare to patients without insurance; 412 Food Rescue, an organization that provides surplus food to insecure communities; and Chef Claudy Pierre, who leads a team that provides hot meals for underserved populations.
According to Rice-Stubbs, the med students collectively contributed $11,000 and, to date, faculty members have contributed $14,000. Rice-Stubbs said that faculty were still contributing donations as of April 1.
“My emails have been getting flooded with faculty responses saying this was a good idea. We’ve been getting generous donations from faculty—up to one thousand dollars a person from people wanting to contribute to the movement. It’s been really exciting,” said Rice-Stubbs, who learned on Match Day that she will be returning to UPMC for her residency in child psychiatry.
The Third Meal
Chef Claudy Pierre, who leads the Empowerment, Awareness and Training (EAT) Initiative, has been working around the clock to provide what he calls "The Third Meal"—a hot dinner meal between 3 to 7 p.m. to under-resourced families in the community. He said he’s grateful for the help from the Match Day donations.
“The School of Medicine was able to really come through and help,” said Pierre. “We’re just doing this work because the population we’re serving is under-resourced. Even though people can line up and go to the food bank and wait for hours, we’re meeting them where we are.”
As of April 3, Pierre said his team has served about 2,000 people through pick-up orders at his North Side restaurant, Arnold’s Tea, and through a no-contact food delivery option. He said, while their reach is growing, the meals have gone to residents in the North Side, Hill District and Beltzhoover neighborhoods of Pittsburgh.
“The donations have been a tremendous blessing. We are so thankful. We’ve been able to reach out to more families and be a blessing to them,” he said.