They were matched, before they were matched.
Friday marked the official “match day” for medical students nationwide — including those at the University of Arizona College of Medicine’s downtown Phoenix campus — when they get the official word on where they’ll spend their residency programs next year.
But whatever the outcome, Anne Marie Sjursen-Guerrero and Carlo Guerrero already knew one thing about their future: They would be together.
Starting this summer, the two, who were married last weekend, will start their residencies in the Valley. Sjursen-Guerrero will be at Phoenix Children’s Hospital for pediatrics; Guerrero, who grew up in Mesa and attended Mountain View High School, will be at the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale for internal medicine.
Staying in Arizona for the next part of their lives is exactly what the two wanted.
They found out at the matching ceremony Friday, when all of the soon-to-be graduates were matched with their future residency programs.
It is the second year that the University of Arizona Medical School, Phoenix campus has graduated students who spent all four years downtown. It was the first medical school located in the fifth largest metropolitan area in the country and is essentially an extension of the UA College of Medicine.
“A lot of medical schools are a hundred years old and established,” Guerrero said. “But here, everything is new and we really get a chance to help shape the school. It’s cool seeing how it’s expanding.”
Soon to be graduating in May, the students are matched with residency programs, where they will spend the next three or four years, completing their medical education before being fully eligible to practice medicine.
The match process is both a highly anticipated and highly secret selection. Starting in the fall before graduation, residency programs interview prospective residents.
By February, students rank programs in the order they would most prefer to attend. Programs rate applicants in much the same way. The lists are compiled and the proceeding matches become binding for both the applicants and the programs.
“It’s your life; you spend so much time there it really becomes your life,” said Sjursen-Guerrero about the 80-hour, six-days-a-week residency programs. “You have to like the program.”
All of the med students throughout the country receive their matches at the same time; this year it fell on March 16.
But this event isn’t the only life-changing one for the Guerreros.
Within one week, three of the biggest events of their lives transpired: They were married, found out which program they would do their residency at, and where they would be spending the next four years of their lives.
The two started dating in late 2008, at first keeping it quiet from their friends and classmates.
“When we told them, they weren’t surprised,” said Anne Marie with a laugh. “They said they already knew.”
But with fewer than 50 students in their class, the two worried that it might make it awkward if they broke up in such a small school. However, that wasn’t the case and they married March 10.
When it comes to dating, becoming engaged and getting married, med school can both help and hurt a couple, the two said.
“We didn’t go on a lot of dates,” Sjursen-Guerrero said.
“But we studied together every day,” Guerrero added.
It was through their everyday interactions that they began to build a life together.
The challenges of med school, such as learning vast amounts of information in a shorter period of time, long hours on rotation, and very little free time made dating hard. But at the same time, knowing and understanding the stresses and challenges of what the other was going through helped keep their relationship strong.
“I’ve always wanted to be a doctor; I can’t remember a time when it wasn’t what I wanted to do,” said Sjursen-Guerrero, who grew up in Tucson.
For her husband, the decision to become a doctor didn’t happen until he was attending Arizona State University and studying business.
“I started out majoring in business and found out I was really enjoying my science classes,” he said. He switched his major to bio chemistry and graduated from ASU in 2008.
The two have been doing a lot of planning in their spare time, and with their recent wedding behind them and the end of medical school in the near future, Sjursen-Guerrero is ready to finish the planning.
“I just want to know where we’re going to live so I can start packing,” she said.
After that, all that comes between graduation and the start of their residencies is the honeymoon.
The two plan to spend a few weeks in Hawaii before the chaotic and busy life as two married residents starts.
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