On March 16, 2018, fourth-year medical students at the University of Minnesota and nationwide opened envelopes to find out where they will spend their residencies. It is one of the most important dates for medical students, signifying hard work, determination and, for some, a major life change. See all University of Minnesota Match Day 2018 stories.

“I think of Match Day as almost more important than graduation itself,” says Bako Orionzi. “It really is a rite of passage.”

For Orionzi, Match Day is the next step toward a career working with women and reproductive health. Women of color, she says, often experience more complications before, during and after pregnancy.

“It’s one of the greatest health disparities our country has, and it’s very dangerous,” Orionzi says. “It wasn’t until I did my core rotation during my third year of medical school that I even thought of it as something I might do as a career, but I always knew that working with minorities was something that was going to be a part of my clinical practice.”

Building ongoing relationships with woman, Orionzi says, is a key highlight of her hopes for the future. “Every woman needs a gynecologist,” she says, adding that she’d love to work abroad as well, serving patients in Uganda. “I don’t think I’ll ever work a day in my life if I can have a good clinical career set up like that.”

Orionzi’s medical education started early—during her senior year of high school—in a class called “Health Careers Internship,” where she was able to shadow an orthopedic surgeon and various care providers at the heart center in St. Cloud, Minnesota, where she grew up.

“It was a fantastic experience,” she says. “So I always had an interest in seeking out opportunities for exposure.”

That theme has continued into Orionzi’s career at the University of Minnesota Medical School where she has been very involved with the Student National Medical Association, whose mission is to support underrepresented pre-medical students as they pursue their education. Connecting with others, Orionzi says, has been a key to her success in medical school.

“Med school is hard,” she says, adding that it’s essential to have “classmates you can struggle with, or mentors to pick you up and let you know that it’s hard but you’ll get through it.”

And while she’s decided to focus on OBGYN, Orionzi is open to traveling for her residency, having earned her undergraduate degree in St. Louis before moving to Washington D.C. for two years prior to coming to the University of Minnesota.

“I know if I ended up in Minnesota I’d be happy. I know my parents would be happy too,” she says, laughing. “I just want to be able to celebrate with my family, colleagues and classmates.”

Update: Bako Orionzi will be conducting Ob/Gyn research and work in Uganda before starting residency next year. Learn more about Match Day 2018, find more student stories like this one, and our full list of matches at med.umn.edu/matchday2018.