Voices rose and fell at a fevered pitch around Kathleen Seaton as white envelopes were opened. The Keck School of Medicine of USC fourth-year student took a deep breath and tore open the envelope that would reveal her fate.

Kathleen glanced down and immediately shouted in celebration as she saw she had matched to Stanford — her first choice in residency programs in psychiatry — where she hopes to develop software solutions to treat patients.

Welcome to Match Day 2014, where on March 21 more than 17,000 United States medical school seniors and 16,000 other applicants learned simultaneously where they would spend the next few years during their residencies. A private, not-for-profit corporation, the National Resident Matching Program, provides a uniform date to learn of appointments to graduate medical education positions.

Keck School students and their families and friends gathered in the Harry and Celesta Pappas Quad with their instructors for a buffet breakfast and welcoming remarks from class co-presidents Kristina DeMaster and Jean Sun.

“This one day truly seems to represent the culmination of our dreams, our potential and even our identity in the world,” said Sun. “For us, medical school is defined by the relationships we formed and the experiences we endured together.”

Keck School Dean Carmen A. Puliafito, MD, MBA, led the students in a celebratory toast. “Matching in medicine is not getting any easier — it is, in fact, becoming much, much more difficult. This was the best match in the history of the Keck School of Medicine.”

According to Donna Elliott, MD, EdD, senior associate dean for student affairs, 157 Keck School students participated in the main match, with nine more students matching early in the military, urology and ophthalmology matches. Internal medicine had by far the largest number of resident matches, with 37 students; 22 of those students will remain at USC for their training.

The number of students matching in other specialties included emergency medicine 17, pediatrics 15, otolaryngology 12, psychiatry 12, general surgery 10, and OB/GYN, family medicine and radiology, each with nine students.

Sarah Russell, who attended USC for her undergraduate, graduate and medical degrees, will stay at USC for radiology and go to Huntington Memorial Hospital for her intern year. “This is very emotional for me and my family because USC is where I’ll do my training for the next five years,” she said. “I want to go into academic medicine in radiology, so I’m really excited to be at an academic institution like USC where I can teach and do research.”

One hundred fourteen Keck students will complete all or part of their training in California, with 49 of those students staying at Los Angeles County+USC Medical Center. Another 62 students will travel outside of California for at least some of their training to 28 different states and the District of Columbia. New York was the most represented state, other than California, for the fifth year in a row.

Seattle native Tavis Dickerson-Yong will return to his hometown for his residency. “I got my first choice of Seattle Children’s Hospital for pediatrics,” he said. “Match Day is the culmination of everything we’ve worked for over the last four years. It’s very exciting; it’s a lot of fun to see everyone celebrating and finding out where they’re going to be.”

Henri Ford, MD, MHA, vice dean, medical education, agreed. “This is one of the best days of the year — this is what we work for.”

A complete match list is available at the Office of Student Affairs.

— By Amy E. Hamaker