Northern Kentucky has always been home for Dillon Powell, a fourth-year medical student at the University of Kentucky College of Medicine. Raised in Independence, Ky, he attended Simon Kenton High School and Thomas More University. When the College of Medicine opened its Northern Kentucky Campus in 2019, he knew that was where he wanted to go for medical school. 

After four years at the regional campus, Powell is ready to tackle his next adventure—residency.

Powell had always been interested in math and science classes but was inspired to pursue medicine after his aunt experienced a massive cardiac event at his home when he was young. That event catapulted Powell into exploring the biomedical sciences, and, ultimately, his decision to attend medical school. 

While playing football at Thomas More, Powell learned to be disciplined, a team player, and the importance of putting in the work. He said those same skills have been invaluable during his medical school journey. 

“If you're just trying to get by or to pass the next test, you're not going to get where you want or need to be—you have to go all-in, put your head down, and know that, if you keep at it, you can see real results,” said Powell. “When you start interacting with patients during third and fourth years, you realize it was worth all those late nights studying, especially when you get to see the real impact that you can have on patients and their lives.” 

For Powell, and other fourth-year medical students around the country, the next step of their medical training will be determined by the National Residency Match Program (NRMP). Designed to keep the match process fair and objective, NRMP utilizes an algorithm to pair the wishes of students with the needs of residency programs throughout the U.S., culminating in an annual event called “Match Day”. 

To prepare for Match Day, students spend months completing paperwork and interviewing with hospitals before submitting a ranking of their top choices. Residency programs submit a similar list with preferred students, position openings, and other preferences. Celebrated annually on the third Friday of March at noon ET, Match Day marks the release of those pairings during which students learn the institution, specialty, and location of their residency program. 

Powell applied to both physical medicine and rehabilitation and family medicine residency programs. He is most interested in musculoskeletal and sports medicine, hoping to one day work with athletes or others who may suffer from physical ailments. His ultimate goal is to help his future patients live functional and fulfilling lives, and matching into either of these specialties will help him to achieve it. 

“If an older patient wants to chase around their grandkids, but knee pain is keeping them from doing that, I want to do whatever I can, whether it’s physical therapy, injections, or medication,” said Powell. “I want to help alleviate that pain and restore that functionality to their lives so they can spend more time with their families.” 

Family has always been important to Powell, who describes his own as large and non-traditional. When he and his three siblings were growing up, his parents adopted his uncle and three cousins as well. Powell shares that growing up in such a large family could be chaotic at times, but he is grateful for their unwavering support as he chases his dream. 

He was the first in his family to earn a four-year college degree and will be the first to obtain a medical doctorate. 

Powell also welcomed a son at the beginning of his fourth year of medical school, sharing that finding a balance between parenting, sleeping, and his studies has been difficult, but rewarding. 

“It’s been hard at times, but I think it’s given even more meaning to what I’m doing,” shared Powell. “It reminds me that all of the work that I’m doing is not necessarily for right now—it’s for my future.”

Following residency, Powell plans to stay close to home and practice in the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky area. He and his wife, also a native of the area, want to raise their son close to family and give back to the community that raised them. 

Match Day 2024 will happen on Friday, March 15. The College of Medicine Office of Medical Education has been prepping for celebrations across all four campuses. UK College of Medicine students will celebrate with their classmates at Kroger Field in Lexington, the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, the Summit Hills Country Club in Northern Kentucky, and the Center for Health Education Research in Morehead.