As a child, Samantha Cothias, BSN, RN, spent car rides to school pestering her father, a nurse, with questions about the human body: “What is cancer?” she recalls asking. “How does the heart work?”
Growing up in Port au Prince, Haiti, where political turmoil often prompted violence, Cothias was no stranger to injuries or blood. “There were a lot of deaths around me,” she said. “As a young child, I began to wonder, ‘How is it that I can help these people?’” She decided that she wanted to become a doctor someday.
March 19 was a landmark day for Cothias, as it was the date that she and 77 others learned of their acceptance into the Brigham’s Internal Medicine Residency Program. Of that incoming class, 55 percent are women and 30 percent are underrepresented minorities in medicine. Across all Brigham residency programs participating in Match Day — when thousands of medical school students across the country learn where they will continue their medical training — 223 aspiring physicians matched at the hospital this year.
“Between politics, public displays of racism and the global COVID-19 pandemic, this has been an exceptionally challenging year for our patients and our staff, including for the hardworking residents on the front line of care,” said Joel Katz, MD, director of the Internal Medicine Residency Program.
“We are so delighted by our Match Day results and to be able to welcome this amazing group of interns, who bring altruism, innovation, diverse domains of achievement and exceptional talent,” Katz added. “This year, we are also so thrilled by the diverse backgrounds from which these talented physicians come, adding an important dimension to their potential as local and national health care leaders. I am very hopeful that, in regard to both the pandemic and the health and well-being of our patients, brighter days lie ahead.”
The match is a homecoming for Cothias, who served as a hematology-oncology nurse at the Brigham for close to four years and has family ties at the hospital as well. After her family moved to Massachusetts when she was 12, her father, Jean Martel Cothias, BSN, RN, now a nurse on Shapiro 7 East, began working as a patient care assistant (PCA) in the Brigham’s Emergency Department before obtaining his nursing degree over a decade ago. Marching in his footsteps, Cothias volunteered at the Brigham, helping transport patients, when she was still in high school. While pursuing her nursing degree at the University of Massachusetts Boston, she completed an obstetric rotation at the Brigham and worked as a PCA at the hospital for three years.
As a nurse, Cothias enjoyed interacting with patients, but she soon realized that she craved some of the responsibilities and opportunities that being a physician would create. Therefore, while still working as a nurse, she continued her education and was accepted into New York Medical College.
Though she will bear a new title when she returns to the Brigham, Cothias anticipates that the environment will feel familiar. “The Brigham does a very good job at making people feel equal,” she said. “The community at Brigham is not just the physicians; it’s also the nurses, the ancillary support, transport. We all have a mentality that everyone is our patient, and I’m excited to be going back to a community that has nurtured me for so long.”
As a physician, Cothias has emerging hopes of being involved in research. Unanswered questions related to COVID-19 infections are particularly compelling to her, given their overlap with her passion for cardiology and relationship to inflammatory phenomena she has observed as a hematology-oncology nurse.
Cothias’ family shared in her joy on Match Day as her parents, brother and sister-in-law got together on FaceTime to experience the big reveal together.
“We were so excited. My wife was crying. I was crying. My son and his wife were crying. It was all tears of joy. The only one not crying was the dog, who was trying to figure out what was going on with everyone,” said her father, Jean Martel. “There are really no words to express our happiness. They say money can help you have a good life, but some things are worth a lot more — the joy this match brings to my family. It was an awesome day.”
When Cothias made the decision to go to medical school, Jean Martel remembered his daughter showing him the four hospital ID badges she had already acquired from her previous roles at the Brigham.
“She told me, ‘Dad, I’ll be back for the fifth one,’” he remembered. “She had so many residency interviews, but she said the only place she wanted to match at was the Brigham. This hospital is in her blood. I’m so proud of her. She has not only followed in my footsteps but also is going further than I, which is what you hope to see your kids do.”
For Cothias, the match is dream come true. “I had a goal for myself since I was little: I wanted to be a doctor, and I wanted to be in an institution that nourishes individuals,” she said. “It’s not often that someone my age can say that they have accomplished their dream, and that was the overwhelming sensation I had on Match Day. I felt that ‘little me’ was looking up and telling me, ‘You’ve made it. You can only go up from here.’”