Claire Murphy was supposed to be celebrating with her UW School of Medicine classmates. Instead, Friday morning’s little party — where she learned the location of her medical residency — was a family affair in Everett.
“Since I was 12 I’ve wanted to be a doctor,” said Murphy, 28, who this spring is completing four years as a medical student at the University of Washington. “It started when I wanted to be a vet. But I wanted to talk to patients. I fell in love with taking care of people.”
Friday was Match Day 2020, overseen by the National Resident Matching Program. It’s when thousands of medical school students and graduates from around the United States and the world learn their next steps — where they’ll train for three to seven years in U.S. residency programs.
It’s a big deal. Not every graduating med student gets a match.
In normal times, the UW’s fourth-year med students spend Match Day together. They open envelopes that tell their futures. “The room is all decorated, and you can bring family members,” Murphy said. “It’s so special for the university to celebrate all the hard work and sacrifices.”
These are not normal times. Coronavirus precautions are keeping universities, schools, businesses and nearly all other gathering places closed. Murphy isn’t sure her class will even be honored at a graduation ceremony.
Those worries didn’t keep Murphy’s family from their small but festive get-together at her parents’ north Everett home. Suspense filled the room as they awaited an email revealing her residency site.
“My heart is pounding,” she said.
Claire Murphy, who aims for a career in emergency medicine, is the daughter of Scott and Kippy Murphy. Scott Murphy has been an Everett City Council member since 2013. Kippy Murphy’s father, the late Earl Dutton, was a longtime Everett School Board member who also played a major role in planning the Everett Events Center, now Angel of the Winds Arena.
“We’re going to be happy wherever she goes,” said Kippy as her husband and Claire’s younger siblings, Olivia, 26, and 24-year-old Kevin Murphy, excitedly awaited 9 a.m. That’s when the email arrived.
A cellphone buzzed. “That’s it, the big moment,” Scott Murphy said. Kevin’s girlfriend, Patty Popp, left the room to print out the emailed letter. She brought it in an envelope for the woman of the hour to open.
“Oh my gosh — it’s UW!” Claire Murphy exclaimed as her family surrounded her shouting “Yay!”
“That was her first choice,” said Scott Murphy, revealing that fact only after his daughter had her No. 1 wish. Once it was known, he dashed off to put on a UW shirt. His wife brought out balloons and flowers in Husky purple and gold, although the match with UW hadn’t been a sure thing.
“On Monday everybody learned if they’d have a match,” Claire Murphy said. She didn’t know where it would be. Out of applications to 40 programs, she’d been invited to interview with 30. Of those, she’d accepted a dozen invitations, and over three months traveled the country for interviews.
She explained how she ranked her choices, one to 12, and the programs ranked their applicants, one to 100. A computer algorithm does the matching, she said.
According to the National Resident Matching Program, based in Washington, D.C., this year’s total number of med school students and graduates registered was the highest ever at 44,959.
With COVID-19 putting medical professionals at risk, it’s a dangerous time to become a doctor. Yet Murphy said she and her classmates are eager to join those already fighting to save lives.
“I want to get out there. We want to help,” she said.
Raised in Everett, she attended the private Lakeside School in Seattle, and was a pre-med major at Georgetown University. Before and during medical school at UW, Murphy was a victim advocate at Dawson Place Child Advocacy Center and the Providence Intervention Center for Assault and Abuse, formerly the Providence Sexual Assault Center.
Through her residency, she’ll work in emergency departments at Seattle’s UW Medical Center, Harborview Medical Center, Seattle Children’s Hospital and Valley Medical Center in Renton.
Nearly done with tuition, Murphy said she’ll earn a salary as a resident. Programs are generally three to four years, up to seven years for surgical specialists. She’s interested in a critical care fellowship, which would add two more years.
“Having worked in emergency departments, that’s the kind of doctor I want to be. Those are the people who need it most,” she said. “I need a little grit in my life. I like to do hard things.”
For years, her parents have seen the grit it took for her to come so far.
“We are so proud,” Scott Murphy said.
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; firstname.lastname@example.org.