KPSOM Spotlight

Looking Back and Looking Forward on Match Day

KPSOM students reflect on the support that sustained them, the challenges they faced, and the road ahead

March 15, 2024

KPSOM Class of 2024 members: (top row, L-R)  Emilia Zevallos-Roberts, Dennis Sievers, Nick Rodriguez, Michael Najem; (bottom row, L-R) Lucas Saporito, Kelly Shriver, Bennett Gosiker, Lucero Amaral

KPSOM Class of 2024 members: (top row, L-R)  Emilia Zevallos-Roberts, Dennis Sievers, Nick Rodriguez, Michael Najem; (bottom row, L-R) Lucas Saporito, Kelly Shriver, Bennett Gosiker, Lucero Amaral

As the Kaiser Permanente Bernard J. Tyson School of Medicine’s inaugural Match Day celebration approached, several members of the graduating Class of 2024 recently shared their thoughts about reaching this milestone in their lives and careers, the people who helped them achieve their goals, their experiences in medical school and the rigorous residency application process, and their future plans as physicians. The following interview excerpts have been lightly edited for length and clarity.

What life challenges have you faced that make Match Day more significant?

Bennett Gosiker: Before medical school and while growing up in the southern U.S., I distinctly remember questioning whether I could become a doctor because I had never met an out queer physician. I genuinely thought of that as a barrier to entry for myself and constantly questioned whether to be “out” in my application process to medical school out of fear of discrimination. For me, getting to become the doctor I wish I had while growing up and doing so being out and proud of who I am brings full circle the journey that I traversed to get here and makes Match Day that much more significant. I’m excited to channel that drive into being an LGBTQ-inclusive primary care physician and ensuring the health needs of my community get the attention they deserve. 

Lucero Amaral: I am the first in my family to attend college and medical school, so this day is especially important and quite surreal for me. I have spent the majority of my life navigating several barriers and laying out the framework to pursue this path, since this was nonexistent for me, being a first-generation student. Not only that but much of the advice I received was discouraging and also did not apply to my specific lived experiences, but finding the right mentorship and support made a world of difference.

The Class of 2024 began medical school during the COVID-19 pandemic. How did this affect your journey?

Nicholas Rodriguez: Besides being masked and distanced for the first year of medical school, starting my medical education and seeing patients during the COVID pandemic provided constant reminders about the importance of biopsychosocial factors on patient health. COVID impacted individual communities in such different ways and highlighted and worsened existing disparities in our society. The stories I have been exposed to in the last four years continue to drive me towards a desire to address these disparities in my clinical and non-clinical work. 

Bennett Gosiker: My biggest take-away is that everyone deserves a little grace. All the students were starting medical school at a new institution and at the same time, faculty/staff were doing this for the first time as well. Starting medical school amidst the COVID-19 pandemic reinforced that 99% of the time folks are trying their best and are entitled to a bit of leeway and grace. Medical education can be unforgiving at times and having the context of the pandemic laid bare the burnout in medicine, so I think I have taken the lesson away of being really proactive about being kind to both others and myself.  

Who was most influential to help you reach this moment?

Dennis Sievers: First and foremost, my mom was incredibly influential. From as early as I can remember she stressed the importance of higher education to me and my older brother. It was with her guidance and support that I began to consider a career as a physician to be a real possibility. My father taught me what it truly means to work hard to achieve the things you want. And finally, my partner has been my closest companion and support figure during this arduous journey. She has consistently been there for me during my highs and lows. I would not have made it to this point without her.

Michael Najem: I must start with my parents, who from my first day of pre-school over twenty years ago to the present day have sacrificed so much to provide me with the best education possible and the opportunity to pursue my dream of becoming a doctor. As immigrants to the United States, war prevented them from pursuing a higher education. However, my journey as a first-generation college student and the first person in my family to pursue medicine simply would not be possible without their dedication to my success. My parents instilled within me a love for learning and a commitment to using my education for the betterment of others, a mentality that was at the core of my decision to become a physician. While I learned the science of medicine in medical school, my parents taught me the art of caring for people, no matter who they are, where they come from, or what their circumstances might be, and for that I will forever be grateful.  

Lucas Saporito: My brother, Michael, has been the most influential. He has been with me every step of our education journey, whether by my side or a phone call away. We have forged this journey together and we have mentored each other throughout the medical process. I don’t think either of us would be where we are today without the other.

Bennett Gosiker: Both my mom and dad did a wonderful job at letting me explore my interests growing up and made clear that I should focus on building my own happiness. This centering of joy as opposed to supposed “success” gave me a healthy perspective when deciding the path to pursue. Before medical school when I was considering a career in public health, they were there for me. When I decided to apply to medical school and then Family Medicine residency, they were there for me. As I move into the next phase of my career, I know that they will be there cheering me on, pushing me to prioritize my own happiness in the process.  

Kelly Shriver: I am particularly grateful to my partner, John, and our three kids, Enoch, Moses, and Jonah, for their patience, kindness, and support throughout medical school, and especially during Match. I am very aware, as are the four of them, that Match determines not only my future career path, but also what their lives will look like in this season ahead. To that end, they’ve been an integral part of planning and preparing for residency and we’ve really viewed Match as a family process. We decided together where we’d be happy to live, and I applied based on those conversations. My kids have been tremendously flexible and resilient in the uncertainty of not knowing where they’ll live in a few months, and I appreciate their spirit of adventure! 

Michael Najem: I would be remiss not to mention the most formative mentor I’ve had in my life, Dr. Chileshe Nkonde-Price. Dr. Nkonde-Price is a force of nature as an astute physician, innovative researcher, passionate educator, caring mother, and committed mentor. Her unwavering support since my first day of medical school has been instrumental to achieving so many of my personal and professional goals over the past four years. She guided me through publishing several peer-reviewed manuscripts and presenting my research at numerous local and national conferences. Dr. Nkonde-Price has fostered my passion to pursue a career in Cardiology, to become an innovator in medicine, and to be a fierce advocate for my future patients, students, and mentees.  

How did you choose your specialty?

Kelly Shriver: I came into medical school knowing that OB/GYN was where I wanted to end up. I love that it is a specialty that involves primary care as well as specialty and surgical intervention, that my career may be largely clinical but can also integrate ongoing political advocacy, and that I can care for patients literally from childhood through end-of-life concerns. Getting to serve girls and women, nonbinary folks, trans men, and the others who need GYN care is a particular privilege because they have, for so long, been an overlooked and understudied patient population. 

Lucero Amaral: The specialty I have chosen is Emergency Medicine. The reason why I love EM is because it is an intersection between social and acute medicine where you see and capture everybody in various stages and conditions. You can see someone who is coding from an uncontrollable upper GI bleed and walk into another room where you are mainly providing reassurance to new parents after their child fell and scraped their knee, and everyone in between. You walk through the doors and have literally no idea what you will be seeing or what kind of interactions you will share, and I think that’s amazing.

What does starting your medical residency mean to you?

Lucas Saporito: Starting residency has multiple meanings to me. It is the culmination of all the work and dedication in medical school. It’s also the start of a new journey, one that is more focused and allows more personalization toward my future practice. This milestone is important because I get to train and learn while providing more hands-on care for patients than I have ever been allowed in medical school. It will be a challenging—and often humbling—opportunity, and one that I will cherish.

Lucero Amaral: Starting medical residency signifies the start of a new stage in my life where I am no longer wondering if I am capable of being a doctor, but I know that I am a doctor! Although residency is still looming in front of me, I feel that I can focus on the specialty I love, fine tune my skills, and become the best physician I can be for my patients. I feel as if I can finally start to plant my roots and build the life that I had envisioned for myself so many years ago!

How did you select which residency programs to apply to?

Kelly Shriver: As I mentioned, my children, partner, and I really made Match a family conversation. My “worst case scenario” wasn’t not matching, it was matching in a place where my family would be deeply unhappy and unsettled. To that end, we collectively looked at geographic locations where we would be happy as a family, and then I selected a list of programs I would want to train at within those regions. Additionally, I did an away rotation which really helped me to discern my fit at programs outside of the Kaiser system. 

Lucero Amaral: The most important factors for me when considering residency programs were location, support, patient population, and level of training. Although I have managed to stay in California throughout my educational career, I have lived in various places, but I would love to go back home to central California and work with patient populations similar to those where I grew up. I also want to train at a program where I will be exposed to many acutely ill patients and where I will feel supported and encouraged to grow into a confident and greatly skilled practitioner capable of handling any situation.

During residency interviews, what aspects of your work at KPSOM were discussed?

Emilia Zevallos-Roberts: I spoke a lot about the clubs that I helped get started such as the Reproductive Justice Coalition, Latino Medical Student Association, and the Global Health Interest Group. What was particularly remarkable about being part of the inaugural class was the opportunity to establish spaces and organizations from the ground up, reflecting our diverse experiences, interests, and values. 

Michael Najem: Two areas of my work I discussed the most were 1) serving as Co-Founder (alongside four of my classmates) and Inaugural President of KPSOM’s first student-run clinic in partnership with ChapCare, a local FQHC in the Pasadena area, which serves an underserved patient population and 2) my scholarly work. Regarding my research, I’ve focused primarily on investigating high burden diseases in understudied populations, which has allowed me to collaborate with researchers within KPSOM and across the country. I’ve worked extensively with Dr. Nkonde-Price on studies that have compared the efficacy of home-based, technology-enabled cardiac rehabilitation to traditional in-person, hospital-based cardiac rehab and evaluated racial/ethnic and gender-based disparities within cardiac rehab. This work yielded two manuscripts (one as first-author) in JAMA Network Open and International Journal of Cardiology Cardiovascular Risk and Prevention as well as two presentations at conferences hosted by the American College of Physicians and the American Heart Association. 

Nicholas Rodriguez: I am so happy I was able to talk about the relationship we have been able to build between KPSOM and the Hollywood Sunset Free Clinic (HSFC). HSFC has provided free medical services to the Los Angeles community since 1968. From early on in our medical school journey, they welcomed our ideas and interests into the clinic and encouraged us to develop projects to help them serve their community. We have since hosted several health fairs targeting HSFC’s diabetic population aimed at re-connecting them with the clinic’s services. 

Bennett Gosiker: The Office of Community Engagement Micro-Grant Award was brought up in most of my interviews by the interviewers themselves actually. I co-wrote the micro-grant with my classmate Nghiem alongside two other student-leaders of MedPride to provide tucking and chest binding equipment to a local FQHC that supports transgender and gender diverse patients, St. John’s Community Health Warner Traynham Clinic. It was a unique opportunity to talk about centering the needs of a population that aren’t typically covered by insurance.  

What will you miss about KPSOM?

Michael Najem: I’ve made some absolutely incredible friends at KPSOM who will last a lifetime. When you go through the challenges of medical school with certain people, it bonds you in a way like few other experiences can. The doubts, challenges, and uncertainty that permeates the med school experience from start to finish provides for a unique set of circumstances that allow you to grow tremendously alongside your peers and learn from their experiences. My friends at KPSOM have pushed me to become a better clinician-training, a more caring person, and a conscientious leader.  

Bennett Gosiker: Easy. The people. I trusted that whatever medical school I ended up at I would receive a quality medical education. At KPSOM I not only received exceptional training but did so in an environment of kind-hearted classmates, faculty, and staff who felt a similar passion for addressing the complex structural problems presented to physicians that are often ignored by the medical profession.

Emilia Zevallos-Roberts: I will miss being a student. KPSOM has provided all the resources and opportunities to learn without all the responsibilities that come with being a resident. It has been a privilege to learn alongside some of the brightest, kindest, and most supportive individuals over the past four years!