Match Day: A Dream Fulfilled

Four UNC School of Medicine students detail the different paths that led them to Match Day.

Collyn Murray
Collyn Murray, UNC medical student who shares her journey to Match Day. Photo by Max Englund/UNC Health Care
Collyn Murray:

Growing up in Greensboro, Collyn Murray always knew she wanted to be a doctor.

“The show “ER” was always on in my house, so I was super interested in that,” she remembers.

Today, Murray has matched into the emergency medicine program at UNC Hospitals.

The process leading up to Match Day was nerve wracking she said, but not for the reasons you might expect.

“I have been just so worried that someone I’ve gone through these last four years with isn’t going to be happy,” Murray said. “They are all brilliant, wonderful people and I want them to get exactly what they want.”

That selflessness will serve Murray well in her chosen specialty.

“Teamwork is so important in the emergency department,” she said. “There is such a high level of trust that you have to have with your colleagues.”

Though she was raised in Greensboro and holds her undergraduate degree from UNC, she said it was her time at the UNC School of Medicine that has developed her desire to serve her home state.

“The mission of caring for the people of North Carolina is something that we hear about all of the time,” she said. “I can’t think of an experience I’ve had in medical school that wasn’t focused on that in some way. I totally drank the Kool Aid and really believe in it.”

She said her work in the emergency department will allow her to serve patients at an absolutely critical time.

“You are serving patients in what is probably one of the worst moments of their lives,” she said. “No one wants to be in the emergency room, but being there for them, being supportive and really clearly explaining what is going on can make an enormous impact.”

And she’s ready to get started.

“We’ve all worked so hard for this and we’re finally going to get a job,” she said laughing. “They should change the name from Match Day to ‘National You Finally Got a Job Day.’”

Matthew Tipton
Matthew Tipton, medical student, talks about his path to Match Day. Photo by Max Englund/UNC Health Care
Matthew Tipton:

Matthew Tipton made it. Born and raised in Gary, Indiana, a city known throughout the 1990s as America’s “Murder Capital,” Tipton says he was first inspired to become a doctor watching the “Cosby Show,” wanting a part of the comfortable lifestyle enjoyed by the Huxtable family.   

He is quick to praise his parents for their support, saying they provided a buffer zone from the plight and violence of Gary. He also said that once he began to show academic promise as a teen, the city pushed him to succeed.

“Everyone knows Gary’s reputation as a bad community, but it’s also an incredibly prideful place. Once they see something good, they really surround it with love,” Tipton said. “They say it takes a village to raise a child. I’m that child.”

He built a reputation around town as the “smart kid” and was accepted as an undergraduate at the University of Notre Dame. He called that experience a culture shock and said it really tested his confidence.

“Coming from a place like Gary, and then going to a place like Notre Dame, it was just overwhelming, and I didn’t perform as well as I probably should have.”

Late in his undergraduate career, he said he was able to get on track, but he knew his grades might not qualify him for medical school. He said he applied to a few Midwestern medical schools but was not accepted.

“I’ll admit that not getting in really stung, but it also lit a fire,” he said.

Tipton enrolled in a post baccalaureate pre-med program at Hampton University. While at Hampton, Tipton participated in the UNC School of Medicine’s MED program. Through that program, Tipton said, he “fell in love with UNC.”

At Carolina, he found a support network in the Office of Special Programs. Cedric Bright, MD, director of Special Programs, has been a personal mentor for Tipton.

“I really owe a lot to everyone in the Office of Special Programs. They invest so much in students and I always knew that was a place I could go just to talk or sit and take a load off,” Tipton said.

Though he acknowledges his path through medical school was winding, Tipton said he remained inspired by his parents and his community.

“I know a lot of people are counting on me and I have to be the return on their investment,” he said.

On Match Day, Tipton is paying back those who have supported him, matching at Loyola University, Chicago.

He’s specializing in Obstetrics & Gynecology, just like his childhood idol Dr. Huxtable.

“The specialty is just awesome, you can combine primary care and surgery, and delivering babies is such an amazing responsibility,” Tipton said. “I am truly living my dream.”

He’s joined at Match Day by his mother, a few close friends and the people he has come to know as his “UNC family.” But, Tipton said, he is really looking forward to graduation when 30-40 people will bus down from Gary to see him cross the stage.

Brooke Crossley
Brooke Crossley, medical student who shares her journey to Match Day.
Brooke Crossley:

Burnt out after a nearly 15 year career as an electrical engineer, Brooke Crossley decided to take a little time to catch her breath. She found her passion. While volunteering for Meals on Wheels near her home in the mountains of Ashe County, Crossley said she was amazed by the impact she had on the people she was serving.

“I was floored by the difference you could make in someone’s life by just being present,” Crossley said. “It changed my life.”

When a neighbor was diagnosed with ALS, Crossley began cooking meals for her family. This experience led her to also begin volunteering with a hospice care organization. Crossley told a friend about the way these experiences had affected her and the friend suggested she consider medical school.

Four years later, at age 43, Crossley has matched at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in her chosen specialty of internal medicine, with a plan to specialize in cardiology.

“I think part of me does miss engineering and so this is a way to scratch that technical itch, while also helping patients and advocating for appropriate end-of-life-care, which has become a passion of mine.”

Crossley said the experience she gained in her career in engineering was an asset to her in medical school.

“I was used to working so I just treated this as my new job,” she said.

Her medical school experience was not without challenges though. When she came to Chapel Hill, her husband remained in their home in Ashe County. Crossley would commute back to the mountains on the weekends but admits the separation was difficult.

They were closer in her third year, when Crossley was a part of the UNC School of Medicine’s Asheville program.

“I really can’t say enough good things about the program in Asheville,” she said. “You get a year’s worth of experience working next to the same preceptors, so they really get to know you and can provide really meaningful feedback.”

Joined at Match Day by her husband – who will relocate with her to Winston-Salem – Crossley reflects on her decision to come to medical school, a decision some said was crazy considering her age.

“I have loved every minute of medical school. I know I’ll love residency; and I know I’ll love being a doctor. I am extremely happy,” she said.

Michael Garner
Michael Garner, UNC medical student who shares his journey to Match Day. Photo by Max Englund/UNC Health Care
Michael Garner:

Today, Michael Garner matched into the dermatology specialty program at UNC Hospitals with a transition year at Spartanburg Medical Center, honoring the legacy of his father, who passed away in 2013.

“My dad was a dermatologist in Boone for more than 30 years,” Garner said. “He died two years ago from malignant melanoma, a disease he’d spent his life treating.”

Garner – who lost his mother just before beginning medical school at UNC – said his father’s death presented him with a clear choice.

“I knew that I could either be consumed by grief, or I could look at medical school as an opportunity to honor my parents,” he said.

He credits the UNC School of Medicine faculty and his classmates for helping him get through the difficult time.

“I didn’t take any time off and I was able to make it through without my grades or anything suffering,” he said. “That’s a reflection of the support and mentorship that I have received. No place is perfect, but when push came to shove, UNC came through for me.”

After residency, Garner plans to return to Western North Carolina and continue his father’s work.

“He was dedicated to making certain that everyone got the dermatological care that they needed,” Garner said. “There is obviously a lot of emotion invested in my specialty and career, but I’m excited. I’m exactly where I want to be.”

- By Jamie Williams, jamie.williams@unchealth.unc.edu

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