Thankfully, for this fifth test cycle, we don’t just have Golden Weekend — we have spring break all week!
How are you planning to spend yours?
One Day. Ever since beginning medical school, “Match Day” felt like more a myth than reality, an elusive goal that never seemed to get any closer. And now finally, FINALLY, it’s only one short day away. We haven’t graduated yet, but for the first time, we are being told all our efforts are worthy of being a doctor. After all the time we put into the books, the clinics, the call nights… someone out there wants us to be a doctor! Match Day is the realization of a dream. Only. One. More. Day.
Ok, boring stuff first (skip ahead if you want to read about my experience!): this is how “The Match” works! A big part of the 4th year of medical school is dedicated to finding a job. Graduating from medical school is not enough to practice medicine in the United States; one still needs to complete additional training after graduation to become certified in a specialty. This process begins when 4th year students submit applications in September to residency programs of his or her choice. The next few months are a blur of interviewing, trying to impress programs all while searching for the perfect place to train.
Next comes the tricky part. Each applicant makes a preference list of where they would like to work for residency, the “rank list.” Likewise, each program makes a list of applicants, ranking the interviewees in the order of its preference. All these lists are thrown into a huge algorithm, and when the switch is thrown, it tries to match each applicant as high up on his or her rank list as it possibly can.
So for example, lets say my rank list has 3 programs: Awesome is at the top of my rank list, followed by programs Spectacular, then Fantastic. If Awesome still has one open spot left when the computer reaches my rank list, it will put me there tentatively. If the algorithm later finds another applicant who is higher up than me on program Awesome’s list (boo!), because there are no more spots left, I will get bumped out in favor of that other applicant. The algorithm will then try to put me in Spectacular. This process continues until I am permanently put in a program, or the algorithm has exhausted my list of potential programs. Because of that possibility, applicants typically have a lot more than 3 programs ranked!
Ranking Programs Is Hard Work!
Back to my story. In my last blog post, I was finishing up interviews and ready to start creating my rank list. That was a whole lot harder than I thought it would be! Fortunately, that was because I liked most of the programs at which I interviewed, and not because I hated them all. It was a nice problem to have! I knew where my first two or three programs would fall on the list, but after that, it was pretty tricky.
After submitting my rank list toward the end of February, there was nothing I could do but wait. And it’s been the hardest waiting game I’ve ever had to play! I’ll be 100% candid with you, this whole process of applying for residency has been pretty stressful. Emergency medicine has a firm grasp on my heart, but it’s a tough specialty to get into. And even though it’s where I know I belong, lingering doubts about my application kept trying to get me down: Are my grades good enough? Did I say anything dumb during interviews? Is my repeat year of medical school going to hold me back? How do I stack up next to other applicants?
The Monday before Match Day, all applicants are sent an email letting them know if they matched or not. Those that don’t match usually have to try for a spot in any remaining programs that didn’t fill up (which usually means having to change specialties). Needless to say, this past Sunday night was a long one for me. I tried sleeping, but about two hours before the expected email arrived, I just couldn’t keep my eyes shut anymore. I rolled over in bed to see my wife, wide awake.
“You can’t sleep either?” to which she replied with an anxious, “Is it time yet?!” Those two hours crawled ever so slowly, and I was reminded of being an elementary student, staring at the clock and watching the seconds tick down to the end of a Friday afternoon. But then it happened. At exactly 8:56 AM, my phone gave off it’s recognizable notification ding, and this is what I saw:
Next thing I know, my wife is sobbing, I’m doing this crazy happy dance, and my son is squealing with delight. I did it!! I’m going to be a Doctor of Emergency Medicine! So now here I am, with one day left to go, a guaranteed match in hand,but no clue where I’m headed. Tomorrow (Friday) at 9 AM, my classmates & I will gather in a big celebration to find out the results of the Match… To be continued…
“Wow! It’s snowing from the sky!” A novelty for those of us that only see snow spraying up from the ground at ski resorts. My husband and I (we got married over Christmas break) traveled to Kettering, Ohio for our inpatient internal medicine rotation. We had an amazing experience, learning lots and meeting many new people.
On our flight over, we met three cool fourth years––Chas, Amanda, and Stephanie––who helped show us the ropes on how to prepare for rounds. Julie Dicken had everything we needed from food, transportation, housing, and our schedules organized and readily accessible. Dr. Fershko also met with us on our first day and was an enthusiastic proponent for our education. The residents also kindly took time to go over our notes and give mini-lectures, and our attendings guided us through patient management and relations.
Throughout our stay, we saw a diverse patient population from drug seekers and ruled out chest pain to AML and SLE. We experienced patients who loved us and those that might have loved us if we had given vitamin D or “dilala” (dilaudid). We were able to celebrate with patients that recovered and for those that passed away, tried to stay strong for the families left behind. Our academic knowledge and interpersonal skills drastically grew in three short weeks.
All too soon, we were heading home. Bundled up to avoid the 5 minute frostbite (Anthony looks better with both ears), we drove through the snow, falling from the sky, our white Christmas for the year. We were sad to end our great experience and say farewell to our new friends.
Medicine can be unforgiving. Most days, it demands your all – all your time, all your attention, all your strength. And it demands it for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer (and it can make you very poor long before it makes you rich). It demands your all in sickness and in health. In moments when you feel like you are at your worst, it still expects you to preform at your best. And when you need to be alone to lick your wounds, it will throw a dozen people in your way who expect you to fix theirs first.
I thought this as I sat cycling through waves of pain while I was sitting in on a required group session for my clerkship. I looked at a clock. It was almost 9pm, just a few hours after having some of my wisdom teeth wrenched from my face and a few hours shy of my birthday. “Why on God’s green earth am I not in bed resting? Half my face feels like it’s being peeled off with needles and I can’t move my mouth.” When I realized I was talking to myself, I paused and took at my surroundings.
I was at a meeting for family members who had been affected by a loved one’s alcoholic tendencies. Many men and women were gathered to share stories of hope and to give encouragement. They refused to veil their inner pain, but instead insisted on sharing it with each other – and in doing so, they seemed to find new strength. They built for themselves a support group that helped them bide the tides of tears and tragedy that would have otherwise caused them to lose their way. I placed my hand on my face and tried to smile (though I’m sure it came off as a grimace).
I smiled both because I was touched by their strength and because I realized I have my own version of that support group. We aren’t struggling with being alcoholics, or with being family members of alcoholics per-say, but we are battling through our own life-changing addiction – medical school. And on the days when this educational drug seems to take away
more than it gives, that rag-tag “support group” of friends comes kicking the doors down to bring encouragement. Today, it came in the form of warm soup and empathetic hugs. A few nights later it came in the form of an 8-12pm birthday party (when all the attendees had to be awake for surgery rounds by 3.30-4am). A few weeks later it came in the form of a weekend ensemble. And every day it comes in the form of obstreperously hilarious texts, indelible adventures and prayer.
There are days when medical school sits on the edges of wonder and disaster. There are days when medicine trifles with awe and with youth. There are days when medical academia seems to be unforgivingly
demanding. Yet on those days, when friends come clamoring to the rescue with simple reminders of selfless love, I’m reminded that every hot-mess expectation or situation that medical school throws my way is being tempered with a Creator’s care.
If one falls down, his friend can help him up. Ecc. 4.10
A friend loves at all times. Prov 17.17
It was really fun to have my parents tag along with me to classes (Cell – Histology of the Endocrine System, PDX – Ophthalmoscopy 3, and Physio – Mechanisms and Control of Micturition), eat a special catered lunch, and show them the PDX, Physio, and Anatomy labs. In the evening, there was a special dinner for families of alumni parents, followed by a dedication ceremony where we each received a new Bible with the LLUSM logo. For the second time, we recited the Physician’s Oath. Next time we say it, we’ll be graduating!
It was a really fun start to the fifth (and second to last!) test cycle of first year. We are almost there!