Operation Couples Match: Future Surgeons Earn Top Choice Residency
Dr. Katta and Dr. Abraham successfully couples matched into their first-choice residency program: categorical general surgery at St. Elizabeth Youngstown Hospital in Youngstown, OH.
For Dr. Abraham, matching at St. Elizabeth’s means coming full circle. She was born at the hospital and grew up just a half hour away in New Castle, Pennsylvania.
“We’re so incredibly happy,” says Dr. Abraham. “You work hard for years, and when you get that email saying you matched, you feel so accomplished. Finding out the hospital was indescribable. It was just such an amazing outcome.”
Four hours northwest in Troy, Michigan, Dr. Katta was born into a family of healthcare professionals. After shadowing his father, a surgical physician assistant, with a trauma patient in the operating room, the younger Katta set his sights on a career in surgery, too.
“Taylor and I both knew we wanted to do surgery before medical school, but we kept an open mind,” says Dr. Katta. “When you go through clinical rotations, a lot of people will tell you that if you like anything other than surgery, do that instead because surgery is grueling and it will test you. But it just clicked with both of us.”
Finding Community in Medical School
Dr. Katta and Dr. Abraham enrolled in AUC’s May class rather than the traditional September start, which they found beneficial as they progressed toward their MDs.
“Starting in the May semester was fantastic. I didn’t have to wait to start medical school, and it gave us a lot more time in our schedules throughout our four years,” says Dr. Katta. “We graduated at the end of February, so we’ve had time off to spend with our families. The May class is also much smaller compared to the September class. I think that’s very important. You can really build solid relationships and friendships right from the start.”
“I loved the small class sizes,” Dr. Abraham agrees. “It’s such a supportive environment at AUC. The professors are wonderful, and the friendships you make really enhance your experience and allow you to make the most of it, even when you’re studying for a majority of the day.”
Preparing for the Couples Match
Dr. Katta and Dr. Abraham did their clinical rotations together, traveling to hospitals in Baltimore, Miami, and New York along with their dog Max, a “coconut retriever” they’d adopted in Sint Maarten. When it came time to apply for residency, they decided to register as a couple with the National Resident Matching Program® and go through the “Couples Match” process, submitting their primary rank order lists to be considered as a pair.
Considering the Couples Match? Read our “Navigating the Couples Match” guide for helpful advice and information.
With their hearts set on surgery, Dr. Katta and Dr. Abraham dedicated themselves to ensuring they had stellar applications and a thorough strategy for The Match™.
“We knew it was a competitive specialty and we sat down and talked about it, saying ‘Do you think we can do this together?’” Dr. Katta says. “We were lucky that we worked so hard during basic sciences. We had strong [United States Medical Licensing Exam] Step scores and letters of recommendation. But we put a lot of thought into our applications and strived to be realistic. We talked about what was most important to us, and that was being together.”
A Proactive Approach to Career Planning
Dr. Katta and Dr. Abraham are looking forward to starting that next chapter of their lives. And while they’re preparing for their training, they’re also continuing to plan their career paths, with the goal of pursuing fellowships after residency. He has an interest in cardiothoracic surgery, while she’s drawn to hepatobiliary.
Setting these types of long-term goals—and plotting out the steps to achieve them—was critical to their success in The Match. “Do your research early and make sure you have a plan,” Dr. Katta says. “Give yourself the best opportunities and apply broadly, but also apply wisely based on your candidacy.”
Dr. Abraham also encourages students to stay positive and focused amid the challenges that come with medical school and the residency process.
“If you had told me four years ago that we would be couples matching into general surgery, I wouldn’t have believed it,” Dr. Abraham says. “We’ve all had these times in life where we get discouraged, where we think we can’t do it. Don’t give up on yourself. Use the resources AUC gives you, work hard, and continue to push yourself. You can make it happen.”
One resource that Dr. Katta and Dr. Abraham found especially useful was group tutoring. They started out as participants and eventually became tutors themselves to help other students—something they say is common at AUC.
“Be diligent and keep working at whatever task is at hand. If you’re having trouble, reach out to your classmates and those in the semesters above you. Uppers love to help answer questions,” Dr. Katta says. “That’s the kind of environment AUC teaches you. We’ve all been through this, we’ve all had help from other people, and we want to pass it on.”