April 19, 2023

Mom and son celebrate matching residency programs together: ‘Still incredible to me’

WATCH: Mom and son celebrate matching residency programs together

Like mother, like son!

Wenjing Cao and her son Hefei Liu are still celebrating a week after learning they were both accepted into residency programs on Match Day, which took place on March 17 this year.

Match Day, an annual event coordinated with the National Resident Matching Program, is the day when medical school students and international medical school graduates who applied for residency and fellowship training programs find out the institutions they’ve been matched with.

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Cao, 54, a research scientist at the University of Kansas, graduated from medical school in China and practiced internal medicine for a decade before immigrating to the U.S. with her family in 2006. Meanwhile, Liu, 26, is a current student at the Medical College of Wisconsin and is expected to graduate this May.

Courtesy of Hefei Liu
Wenjing Cao with her son Hefei Liu when he was a young boy.
Courtesy of Hefei Liu
Hefei Liu (far right) smiles for a photo with his parents, dad Lewis Liu and mom Wenjing Cao.

The mom-and-son duo told “Good Morning America” they didn’t plan to apply to residencies together but when Cao decided she wanted to return to medicine and reapplied for a second time last year, it became something they realized could become a reality.

“I never thought I would go through this process with my son together. [It’s] incredible, amazing, something I feel very excited [about],” Cao told “Good Morning America.”

Courtesy of Hefei Liu
Wenjing Cao graduated from medical school in China and has worked as a research scientist since coming to the U.S. Now, she's looking forward to pursuing her residency and returning to medicine again.

“When I learned about it, it was quite a surprise to me, especially knowing that she's my mom,” Liu recalled. “She told me that she was going to reapply this year, which is the same year that I'm going to apply and I thought, ‘Wow, this could actually happen.’ And somehow it happened and it's still incredible to me.”

Last week, Cao learned she would be headed to the clinical pathology residency program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison while Liu learned he had matched with the radiation oncology residency program at the University of Pennsylvania in his hometown of Philadelphia.

“They're one of the top institutions for radiation oncology in the world and since I grew up in Philly, this is the perfect fit for me and I'm very, very happy to go home and train,” Liu said.

Courtesy of Hefei Liu
Hefei Liu and his mom Wenjing Cao celebrated learning they both matched residencies on Match Day, which occurred on March 17 this year.

Cao also said she was feeling excited about her next chapter.

“I’m also very grateful that the University of Wisconsin-Madison pathology program took [a] chance on me being a non-traditional applicant with their unique vision,” Cao said.

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They said they’re also proud of each other’s achievements so far.

“He worked extremely hard … and then [he’s] self-motivated and that actually, I often was inspired by him, by his work ethic,” Cao, who described her son as “smart” and “kindhearted,” said.

Courtesy of Medical College of Wisconsin
Hefei Liu, a student at Medical College of Wisconsin, and his mom Wenjing Cao, an international medical graduate and a resaerch scientist, both found out they matched residencies last week.

Liu, who called his mom his “biggest supporter,” said he’s still amazed they both matched. “I really had to pinch myself to believe it and I think even then, I had doubts. … I'm extremely grateful. I'm proud of my mom. I think both of our journeys to this point were drastically different and they weren't easy for either of us.”

“Having her match with me on the same day really speaks to who she is, as a person, someone who's caring, dedicated and hardworking,” he added.

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Cao also said she hopes her personal journey can serve as an inspiration for others like her who may be considering a career change or have had a non-traditional life path.

“I hope my story can inspire so many others like me, at my age, [in their] 50s, and as a mother, as a woman, as an immigrant, [anyone] can pursue their dream, as long as you want it,” she said. “It's your dream, put hard work on it. Keep positive. Stay motivated. You can get it.”

Liu added, “If you see your parents or any of your family members who are interested in pursuing medicine and they have an interest, but they clearly have some sort of obstacles in their life, you should … be supportive of them and encourage them to pursue that dream because I think with dedication, hard work and sometimes just even luck, that you can truly achieve your success.”

Editor's note: This was originally published on Mar. 24, 2023.