GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Statements like “they wanted you and you wanted them” and “we’re dating a lot of people during this match period” sound like descriptions of a dating app. In reality, they’re quotes from medical professionals about the process of matching a student with a health system where they will train as doctors during their residencies.

Hundreds of fourth-year students in Michigan State University’s College of Human Medicine will find out at noon Friday where they will spend the next several years of their lives.

Kelvin Lim has been building to this moment since he came to the U.S. from South Korea when he was 11.

“There was a culture shock, yes, and language barrier, yes. I struggled in the public school system not having as many resources as a foreigner, but I eventually got caught up in high school,” he said.

Lim went on to college, where he decided the best way to serve the community and give back was through medicine.

“I think the hard work ethic that most immigrants have is what really helped me propel forward,” he said.

Lim plans to go into urology, which is a highly competitive field. He took a year off after his third year in medical school to do research at Houston Methodist Hospital in Texas, studying urology oncology and health services outcomes.

Urology and ophthalmology are the only two specialties where students find out their matches for residency early. Lim already knows he will attend the University of Rochester in New York for training. The rest of his classmates are still waiting to find out their futures.

With so many medical facilities in Grand Rapids, chances are good some students in this year’s match class will stay in West Michigan. It happened to Dr. Craig Matisoff three years ago.

“There’s tons of excitement, a lot of fear. It’s exciting to be on this end of it,” he said. “You really have no clue where you’re going until you open up that envelope.”

Matisoff is finishing up his residency at Corewell Health West, focusing on family medicine. He has already accepted a job to continue working for Corewell in West Michigan.

One of the physicians in charge of the residency programs for Corewell Health is another example of the talent that learned in West Michigan and stayed.

As the director of residents, Dr. Talawnda Bragg knows firsthand what an intricate process it can be to figure out which students will become residents and where. She is responsible for interviewing candidates.

“If you look at the number of applications we’ve got, it’s something like 14,000 to 15,000. So it’s a lot of sifting through, figuring out whom we love, inviting whom we love, and then interviewing whom we love,” said Bragg. 

She called the moment a student opens their envelope “the biggest moment in any medical profession career that’s pursuing being a physician.” 

Bragg is excited about the prospect of retaining the talent of students who have been learning at MSU because she sees the value in having residents in any hospital.

“If you are going to be treated at a facility or a hospital that has medical residents, you are more likely to get better care, meaning you have several eyes on the patient,” she said.

She said those residents often have more time to spend with a patient and get more information about that patient’s care needs.

“We’re preparing the next generation of doctors,” Bragg said.

Matisoff agrees with the importance of these positions in healthcare.

“There is no greater privilege than getting to be someone’s physician and being led into somebody’s life in the best of times and the worst of times,” said Matisoff.