GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Chi Chi Mbanugo, graduating from Michigan State University’s College of Human Medicine in Grand Rapids, has been certain since she was a toddler that she wanted to eventually become a doctor, but there is still a lot of uncertainty going into “Match Day.”

At noon on Friday, medical students around the country opened sealed envelopes to find out where they’ll do their residency programs, starting in the summer.

Opening that envelope is a life-changing experience. Students break the seal and suddenly have to start planning for a move that could take them across the country or across town. In their fourth year of medical school, students decide what kind of medicine they’d like to specialize in and send out applications to various institutions to do their residency training. They then enter their preferences into a system, putting their top choices first. Meanwhile, the people they interviewed with log into the same system and rank the candidates. 

The nonprofit, National Resident Matching Program, takes all of the information and places students with the institutions. The challenge for the complex system is that there are more students than there are spots available.

Earlier this week, Mbanugo received an email that she matched somewhere but finds out the exact location at the same time as 30,000 other students around the country. She called making it to that day a dream come true.

“I think that everything you do is… leading you to this. You have to do well on your board exam, your MCAT exam, to get into med school and then once you’re in med school, you have to survive the rigors of med school and the time constraints and all the information that’s coming at you. It’s a lot of time, it’s a lot of effort and I think Friday is just a great representation of all your hard work finally paying off,” she said.

As a Black woman going into the field of medicine, Mbanugo said having mentors who look like her was important in navigating those rigors of medical school. It helped with what she described as Imposter Syndrome.

“I think it’s really easy to think that you don’t fit into a field if you don’t see anyone that looks like you in that field. My mentor, Dr. Martin, when he trained at the University of Chicago, he was one of the only Black residents in his class. And when he was an attending there, he also was one of the only Black attendings at that time. And hearing his anecdotes of what it was like being kind of the only one and seeing how much they’ve worked at that institution as well as here to try and increase their diversity and also to have that experience of knowing that despite not seeing people like yourself that you can still achieve whatever you want to achieve was really awesome,” she said.

Mbanugo thinks there is a lot more work to do, but does see the progress and wants to leave the door open behind her for other Black women doctors.

“I really want to get involved in mentorship. Wherever I go for residency, I really want to go out of my way to reach out to those underrepresented students and see if there’s any way that I can give them those tips and tricks and just be that support system for them as they’re going to the next step that I’m going to,” she said.