Aaron Jeckell got up from the picnic table filled with his family and his roommate's family.
"Doctor J," yelled one of his classmates as Jeckell prepared to open an all-important envelope.
Off to the side of the Skipper's Smokehouse courtyard, Danielle Hoyne, 25, stood with her own family. She wondered if she'd be able to do her medical residency at a hospital near her boyfriend, a certified public accountant in Chicago.
Jeckell, 27, motioned a drum roll. "Guys, I'm going to be Dr. Jeckell," he said, "in psychiatry at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami."
For 112 graduating medical students at the University of South Florida, Friday afternoon marked a decades-old tradition for their school and a pivotal moment in their careers.
One by one, these "Match Day" participants were handed envelopes by Steven Specter, associate dean of student affairs at USF's Morsani College of Medicine at the Tampa event.
Some had spouses at their sides or small children in their arms.
Harry Lomas, a 41-year-old Army veteran, had his wife and three children with him when he got the good news: He'll practice radiation oncology at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond.
The national match system uses computer technology to compare student preferences for advanced training with teaching hospitals' needs. Students' odds of getting the matches they seek depend on factors that include how competitive a field is and how highly they ranked in their class.
USF officials say their Match Day format — in public, with family and refreshments, instead of in a lecture hall — is unusual. The future doctors arrived at Skipper's in sundresses and flip-flops, jeans and ball caps.
Also somewhat unusual, USF streamed the proceedings live on Facebook.
"Are you watching? Are you watching?" Alexandra Feliciano called out to her older sister and two nieces in Tennessee. "Family medicine, University of Tennessee College of Medicine, Chattanooga."
In Washington, D.C., the American Association of Medical Colleges was encouraged Friday by a slight increase in the number of residency positions this year and a rise in matched residents — 16,272 in all.
However, said association president Darrell G. Kirch, "We remain very concerned that these increases are insufficient to meet the nation's future health care needs and the looming doctor shortage."
Medical schools have been expanding enrollment since 2006 and expect to educate 30 percent more doctors by 2017. Still, the association predicts a shortage of 90,000 physicians by 2020 as the nation's population continues to grow and age.
The USF seniors will travel as far as Texas, California, Michigan and Arizona. Forty-seven are staying in Florida, including 27 who will continue their training at USF.
As for Hoyne? She learned Friday that she will be an ear, nose and throat resident at the University of Iowa, next door to Illinois.
"It was my No. 1 choice," she said as her family congratulated her. "It's huge!"
Marlene Sokol can be reached at (813) 226-3356 or [email protected]