Drs. Cynthia & Jasmine Kudji: An Inspirational Match
Mother and Daughter Set to Start 2020 Residencies at LSU Health
Each year, Match Day ushers in thousands of stories of medical students grasping their residency dreams. But Match Day 2020 brought an extremely rare one: A mother and daughter graduating from medical school at the same time and both matching to the same institution. “My mother is the most inspiring person in my life, and she is one of the only reasons I was able to make it to where I am today,” says Jasmine Kudji, 26, who will begin a General Surgery residency at LSU Health New Orleans. “Jasmine has been my rock through this journey,” says Cynthia Kudji, 49, who will begin her residency in Family Medicine at LSU Health Lafayette.
Cynthia was a senior at Tulane University when she became pregnant with Jasmine, and her hope of attending medical school seemed to be in jeopardy. Nevertheless, as a single parent, she began her healthcare career as a nursing assistant in a nursing home and was soon on an upward trajectory that took her through nursing school to become a hospital RN, and eventually, a nurse practitioner serving rural communities throughout Louisiana and Alabama.
Jasmine is proud that as her mother climbed higher, she always made sure that her daughter’s dreams were attainable as well. “I remember countless times my mother would work back-to-back, 12 hour shifts so that she could afford to send me to the best high school in New Orleans. She pushed me to become the best student that I could be.” As Jasmine earned her bachelor’s degree at LSU and was accepted to LSU School of Medicine, her mom, at age 43, was accepted into the University of Medicine & Health Sciences on the Caribbean island of St. Kitts. “This was by far the hardest thing she had ever done,” says Jasmine. “There were countless nights where she’d call me crying. At times she struggled to find acceptance among her classmates because she was more than 20 years older.”
“I think being away from Jasmine was the most difficult part of being in St. Kitts,” says Cynthia, one of 3,154 U.S. citizen international medical school students who matched to a PGY-1 position in 2020. “I was 43 when I started, and no matter what, I still had the responsibility of being a mom. Jasmine and I often compared notes via Skype, and I felt very confident in the education I was receiving. M professors were truly committed to my success.”
Cynthia does not believe her nursing career gave her an edge in medical school. “Physicians have a very extensive knowledge base that I learned to respect,” she says. “As a nurse practitioner I often felt like there were holes in my understanding, and medical school helped to fill them. However, being a nurse practitioner taught me how to understand people, listen to patients, and work as a team.”
Jasmine and Cynthia made daily use of Skype for visiting and studying. “Despite our physical separation, we still utilized each other as resources.” says Jasmine. “But because of the distance and financial limitations, we were only able to see each other in person during Christmas breaks.” However, one of the best time periods was when Cynthia did a Family Medicine “away” rotation at the same Lafayette hospital where Jasmine was doing a rotation. “She lived with me for six weeks, and for two weeks, while I was completing my Family Medicine core rotation, she and I worked side-by-side in the same clinic,” recalls Jasmine.
As their time in medical school began to wane, mother and daughter turned their attention to the transition to residency. “We would practice our interviews on each other. She would critique me, and I would critique her,” remembers Cynthia. “Even if I felt an interview didn’t go well, Jasmine was always encouraging. We learned to value the quality of the interview and not the number of interviews that we received. As we got closer to Match Day, we got more and more nervous.”
Jasmine agrees: “The Match process was very nerve-wracking for me. I kept track of the NRMP Match data from previous years, so I was aware that General Surgery had become more and more competitive. The Monday morning of Match Week was probably the most stressful as I waited for the email to come that would tell me if I had matched.”
“Even when we found out that we had matched, not knowing the location was nerve-wracking!” says Cynthia. “We knew that we wanted to be in the south and as close to home as possible. “
Both of their top two programs were in the same two states. “Our biggest concern,” remembers Jasmine, “was that we would match in one of those two states but still end up in different places. We would have made the best of it, but we would much rather be in Louisiana together and close to our family and friends.”
On March 20th, Cynthia and Jasmine were overjoyed to learn that they had both matched to LSU residency positions a mere two hours away from one another. Mother and daughter are excited for their futures and honored to serve their home state during a time of crisis.
“Despite the alarming rise in COVID-19 cases in New Orleans, I am still very excited to begin my residency. This is an extraordinary time in medical history, and I am proud I will soon be able to help and learn in any way possible,” says Jasmine.
Always a mother, and now a doctor, Cynthia says, “As a resident, my biggest concern during the COVID-19 crisis is making sure that my child is protected, as well as myself. But I have learned, and I have shared this with Jasmine, that when there is adversity there is also opportunity. This is the perfect time for physicians to show their leadership. This is why Jasmine and I became physicians. We want to be a part of the front-line team that impacts the community that we live in.”
The National Resident Matching Program® (NRMP®) is a private, non-profit organization established in 1952 at the request of medical students to provide an orderly and fair mechanism for matching the preferences of applicants for U.S. residency positions with the preferences of residency program directors. In addition to the annual Main Residency Match® for almost 44,000 registrants, the NRMP conducts Fellowship Matches for more than 60 subspecialties through its Specialties Matching Service® (SMS®).