A Perfect Match

Joshua and Kleesy Thomas

Although they grew up in different rural towns, Joshua and Kleesy Thomas had comparable lives. Both grew up in small communities, both families are cotton farmers and both were the first in their families to go to college. Years later they would both head to medical school where their lives would cross paths.

“We met in Dr. Miller’s neuropathology lab,” Kleesy said. “We both decided to do summer research after our first year of medical school. We then started dating our second-year of medical school, and he proposed in third-year.”

Kleesy and Joshua were married over Christmas break in their third-year of medical school. Now both are one of the couples that completed their match for Match Day. Match Day is a nerve-wracking event that has played out on medical school campuses across the country. Approximately 140 TTUHSC School of Medicine students participated in Match Day and learned where they will be for the next three to seven years for their residencies. Joshua, who matched for family medicine at TTUHSC said he always wanted to work in a rural area.

“I think first and foremost, I am a rural guy and grew up in that atmosphere and want to live there,” Joshua said. “It affords me the opportunity to go back to my roots. I like the wide scope of Family Medicine and being able to be the guy who does everything he was trained to do. And there is such a need for it here in the area.”

Kleesy, who also matched at TTUHSC, also has her reasons for going into dermatology and going back to her roots. She recalls growing up with her family farming back in the day and her grandfathers working on tractors without cabs, out in the sun all day.

"My grandfather and great-grandmother had melanoma, and my mom has non-melanoma skin cancer,” Kleesy said. “We all grew up outside farming, and didn’t know to take care of our skin. I think both of our choices of medical specialty stem from where we were raised.”

Before the match, both hoped to do their residencies here at TTUHSC. Joshua who completed his undergraduate program at Texas Tech University said he never had any intention of going anywhere else.

“For my family and my future family, TTUHSC is where we belong and want to be,” Joshua said.

Months before Match Day, students begin applying to residency programs in their preferred specialties. Students visit sites to evaluate and ultimately rank their preferred residency programs. At the same time, administrators at each site interview applicants and rank them. The National Resident Matching Program (NRMP) coordinates this process and makes the final match algorithm, which is designed to produce results for students to fill the thousands of training positions available at U.S. teaching hospitals.

“Logistically, it gets kind of tricky to match as a couple.” Joshua said. “You send out the applications to the programs, and they consider them as a package deal. That allows the programs to discuss them together. Trying to match is added stress.”

In their situation, the match was even more difficult because of their choice of residencies. Kleesy is required to do an intern year in internal medicine or surgery before starting her dermatology residency.

“Interviewing for those in addition to dermatology positions, makes it more complicated when ranking,” Kleesy said. “We made a decision before that we would not spend anytime apart. That means that one of us would rather go unmatched, then go to two different cities. At this point in our lives, to be separated in this part of our career was not an option.”

But both do agree, with the added stress comes the other side of being married during their medical education. They studied for Step 1 together, did third-year clerkships together and now worked through their residency match together.

“Having someone to do this with takes some stress off,” Joshua said. “We had each other for all of the difficult parts of medical school. But, also got to celebrate the good times together.”

Kleesy agreed and said the journey has been incredible.

“Looking back and you are with the person you love, and you got to share it all together,” Kleesy said. “Medical school was definitely a bonding experience.”

Charles Saadeh and Brooke Mills

Charles Saadeh and Brooke Mills met each other early on in medical school. They recall meeting in gross anatomy and studying together in the early mornings before class.

“We started dating towards the end of our first block,” Brooke said. “The past three and a half years have just flown by!”

Brooke, who is from Ft. Worth, and Charles, who is from Amarillo, grew up around the medical field. Both of their fathers are physicians.

“I did my undergrad at Emory University in Atlanta,” Brooke said. “I didn’t know I wanted to study medicine until I studied abroad in Cape Town. At that time, I was studying abroad for anthropology and did patient education there and loved it. My dad told me how hard medical school and being a doctor would be. But, he is one of the happiest people I know, because he loves what he does.”

Charles completed his undergraduate degree in chemistry at Duke University. He said although his father was a physician, he was not sure whether to go to graduate or medical school.

“I enjoyed the allure of working with patients, and I knew for me personally, I would not get that in basic science research,” Charles said. “It was in my junior year that I committed to applying to medical school. I spent 10 weeks in Honduras with Engineers without Borders. We did hard labor for those weeks building a clinic. Now, I can see that the clinic is up and running. Maybe Brooke and I can go back there one day.”

Both Charles and Brooke applied to medical school in Texas hoping to be closer to family. They agreed that TTUHSC was an exciting environment and had the friendliest interview day.

“The couples match is tough,” Charles said. “I stress just thinking about what we went through. We applied to 97 programs each and were lucky enough to get some interviews that overlapped.”

Charles said that the entire match process was a humbling experience and added that they would be happy with whatever the outcome was. They ranked 22 combinations of programs. Charles matched at University of Texas Southwestern and Brooke matched at Baylor University Medical Center.

“I am excited to do my otolaryngology residency,” Charles said. “Otolaryngology is the surgical subspecialty of the head and neck and I was drawn to work with that anatomy. On any given day, you can see anything from head and neck cancer, hearing loss, kids with ear infections, professional singers, and so much more. I’m a surgeon at heart and fell in love with the field. I’m so grateful to my mentors, Dr. Cordero, Dr. Demke and Dr. Nguyen.”

Brooke is looking forward to a career in internal medicine.

“With internal medicine you can talk to patients and educate them about their diagnoses. That process is rewarding to me,” Brooke said. “I am interested in rheumatology as a subspecialty. Rheumatology is the ultimate big mystery and puzzle with great continuity of care. I spent a month doing rheumatology as an away rotation and fell in love with the field.”

Charles and Brooke have similar interests in outdoor sports, cooking and traveling.

“We have done a few triathlons together and are avid skiers,” Charles said.

All the match stress cannot hinder these two. Charles recalls a trip he and Brooke took to Colorado when they got caught in a blizzard.

“We got to Trinidad and saw the sign for Pueblo that was 77 miles away, and I thought we can do this,” Charles said. “It took us 4 hours to make that leg. We were going to stop, but when we hit Pueblo, the snow stopped. We thought we can do this and kept going. We didn’t get to Frisco until 3 in the morning. But it was okay. It was all just to get to ski in that awesome, blizzard snow.

Rosalia Mbugua

As a young girl growing up in a village near Nairobi Kenya, Rosalia Mbugua dreamed of becoming a doctor.

“My parents knew of my dream and they encouraged me to work hard in everything that I did hoping that one day, my dream would come true,” Rosalia said. “All I had back then was a dream and prayers. Now, I am about to begin my residency.”

Rosalia immigrated to the U.S. after high school and obtained both undergraduate and graduate degrees in nursing. After working in various clinical settings, she made the decision to pursue her lifelong dream of becoming a physician. The first time she wanted to be a doctor was when her grandfather was diagnosed with cancer.

“I was in high school, 14 or 15 years old, and during one school break, I was helping my grandmother. My family started calling me doctor, and I liked it.”

Years later, after moving to the United States, it was financially impossible to attend medical school. She instead went into the nursing field. Rosalia knew through her nursing jobs that she wanted to have more skills to take care of patients on a broader scope and thus applied to medical school.

“I believe when you have a calling, it is very hard to resist it,” Rosalia said. “I was in love with human health and knew I wanted to serve others in health care. But, it has been a long road.

Rosalia plans to work as an Emergency Medicine Physician because she enjoys the broad spectrum of patients and the diversity of the population.

“In emergency medicine, you are the first responder in a sense,” Rosalia said, “I will be the first physician to assess and diagnose the patient, then coordinate care with the primary care provider, hospitalist and/or specialist.”

Rosalia, who is the first person to become a physician in her family wanted to match in Texas. Many of her family members from Kenya are in the Ft. Worth/Dallas area.
Being close to family is important to her. She has two sons Ryan, 5 years old and Sebastian, 2 years old. Although Rosalia was not matching with her husband as a couple, she knows all too well why having her spouse’s support during a match is vital. Her husband Sam is a nurse practitioner at University Medical Center Health System. The two grew up together as next-door neighbors and have been married for nine years.

“Being a medical student, mother and wife has been challenging,” Rosalia said. “But, I have learned how to organize, prioritize and just go day by day. Sam is very supportive. Being a health care provider, he understands my schedule. I don’t know how I would have done it without him.”

Rosalia, who matched at John Peter Smith Hospital, looks forward to starting her residency.

“I’m very excited and looking forward to working as a resident,” Rosalia said. “Introducing myself for the first time will make me smile. Hello, I am Dr. Mbugua. How can I help you today?”

Steven L. Berk, M.D., TTUHSC executive vice president and provost and dean of the School of Medicine, said TTUHSC students had a successful match at outstanding teaching programs around the country.

“As we do every year, our students consistently match with some of the best residency programs throughout the U. S.,” Berk said. “Exceptional students remain right here at TTUHSC to pursue training in everything from Anesthesiology to Urology. Family Medicine was our most popular choice of residency programs. We are extremely proud of these students and their many accomplishments. Their achievements are a reflection of the teaching, mentoring and commitment our faculty have shown them the past four years.”

Other matches also included:

Johns Hopkins Hospital
Scott and White Memorial Hospital
Vanderbilt University Medical Center
Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center
Mayo School of Graduate Medical Education
University of Virginia Health System
University of Texas Medical Branch
University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center

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