The parents of 25-year-old Rachel Kennedy and 26-year-old Dennis Delany will meet for the first time Friday, about 10 weeks before the pair will walk down the aisle in the bride’s hometown of Atlanta. But the engaged couple -- set to graduate from Temple University’s School of Medicine in May -- is less worried about their future in-laws’ initial get-together than the results of the National Residency Matching Program announced the same day.
“I feel really nervous,” said Kennedy, who will specialize in psychiatry. “I’ve been dreaming about it all week.”
“It is our year of transitions,” added Delany, a Lancaster County, Pa. native who plans to be a pediatrician.
The medical students are just two of the more than 32,000 people who find out their professional fate Friday – commonly referred to as Match Day among medical students.
"This was the first big decision we had to make together and totally take the other person’s opinions to heart,” said Kennedy, who accepted Delany’s marriage proposal in November 2013.
After initial applications are submitted in mid-September, hospitals with medical residency programs conduct in-person interviews. Then the interviewees create a list ranking the programs as they see fit, according to the National Residency Matching Program (NRMP) website.
Residency program directors create a similar list ordering the candidates according to their preferences. Finally, a computerized mathematical algorithm aligns the lists to fill the training positions at teaching hospitals across the country, the NRMP website says.
For couples, the lists can be even more complicated as they submit their preferences in pairs.
“The top of our list is really focused on the southeast. For me, location was major,” Kennedy said.
“I was open to anywhere...but one of the locations she was fixed on wasn’t quite as strong a program for me," said Delany, who explained there were some negotiations to meet both their wants.
The combination of launching one’s career, potentially relocating to a new city and getting married in such a short period time is stressful, but one expert says the couple, as medical students, can likely handle the pressure.
“It is a huge decision to make right out of the gate, the marriage gate,” said Dr. Frank Farley, a psychologist at Temple University and a former president of the American Psychological Association. “But a marriage involves shared decision making, discussion over important issues and compromise. So some of the key ingredients in a happy, healthy marriage are in front of them right now.”
They submitted their final list – 13 programs for her and 15 for him – to the NRMP about an hour before they were due.
The algorithm will weed through the pair’s nearly 80 possible combinations across nine different cities -- including Philadelphia, Atlanta, Nashville, Tenn., Charlottesville, Va., Charleston, S.C., and the Raleigh-Durham region in North Carolina -- before making a match.
“We are both making compromises,” Kennedy explained. “It is a matter of each of us forgoing what some of our top choices were to be with each other.”
The soon-to-be husband and wife will find out where they will begin their medical career Friday at noon on Temple’s campus in front of their families and all their peers.
“I’m going to be emotional,” said Kennedy, before adding that she knows it will turn out for the best. “Our list has the greatest amount of combined happiness.”