The festivities began at 9:30 a.m. at Garduno's on the Green, located at Albuquerque's Balloon Fiesta Park. At exactly 11:00 a.m. MST medical students across the country simultaneously learned where their residency and their careers would begin. The match has a huge impact on students' lives, from where they will be located to what specialty they can pursue.

"I'm very excited about graduation and beginning my residency training," said Debi Sanchez, a senior medical student. "I'm looking forward to this part of my training with that little bit of apprehension that confirms I'm challenging myself."

Sanchez, a 43-year-old non-traditional student, hoped to be placed at a residency program in New Mexico. Sanchez is a native to Albuquerque and hopes to go into family practice in an underserved area in northern New Mexico.

Sanchez began as a pre-med student more than 20 years ago, but changed career paths, eventually working as a real estate appraiser and owning her own appraisal business. A few years ago she decided to make a career switch and was drawn back to medicine.

Sanchez hopes to go into family practice because she enjoys challenges and helping people. Sanchez feels family practice will bring her the satisfaction of helping others as well as encourage her to continue learning throughout her career. "Being a doctor is something I know willoccupty my mind for the rest of my life," Sanchez said.

Residency is the second phase of medical education, requiring an additional three to seven years of training, depending on the medical specialty. During their residency experience, physicians receive in-depth training in a specialty area, such as family or emergency medicine.  Residency programs enable the transition from student to physician.

The UNM School of Medicine has a unique program that tailors to hands-on experience outside of the traditional classroom. This educational program, Problem-Based Learning Methodology, prepares medical students for their residencies. The students are placed in small groups to study and diagnose actual medical cases. This allows the students to learn the basics of medical procedures, while preparing them for practical medical skills they will master in their residencies.

The Match is determined by the National Resident Matching Program, which pairs the medical students with residency programs. Senior medical students and residency programs must complete a residency application and interview process. Once this is complete, students rank their top residency preferences, and the residency programs rank the students. The Match is then determined by a computer algorithm-based program to make the best matches.

Eighty-five percent of the students receive one of their top three choices and 65 percent receive their top choice, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges.