Match day is around the corner. I know it’s a few days away, but I am still having trouble sleeping! I know there will be screams, tears and hugs. Penn has the nerve-wracking yet exhilarating tradition of calling students to the front of the auditorium one by one and handing each of us an envelope. I suppose you can choose to open your envelope on stage or wait until you get back to you seat. I think I might open it at my seat. I want to preserve that tiny amount of privacy; I need to open it alone.
It’s weird to think that our future is so unknown right now. This will be the most important day of my future career thus far. Match day is the day that I will learn my fate; in fact, it’s the day my fiancé and I will learn our fate. He is currently living in another city and is not in medicine. I am hoping to be close to him, geographically, so we don’t have to deal with a long distance marriage.
Match day is the culmination of years of work. It’s hard to believe that I am now 27, and I have been in school since I was 5! I have worked so hard to get to this day. From organic chemistry lab and MCAT studying to gross anatomy lab and Step 1 studying, it has taken so many steps and careful decisions to get to this day. I know I would never be here if it weren’t for the support and love of my parents.
Match day signifies the beginning of my transformation from a medical student to a neurologist. In about three months, we will begin our future jobs.
Yesterday, I found out that I matched. I didn't find out where -- that comes Friday -- just that, come July, I am not going to be unemployed. The truth is, all we got was four words: "Congratulations! You have matched.", and then brief instructions about checking the NRMP website on Friday. Not the most elaborate or celebratory of announcements. Still, those four words, as simple as they were, helped me sleep last night. The uncertainty of the match process can be difficult, and after our rank-lists are in, everything is out of our hands, so it was a relief to finally start to close in on the finish line.
I enjoyed this past fall on the interview trail -- traveling around, getting to know the programs, meeting my future colleagues, trying to decide what kind of residency would best fit me. A smaller or larger program? Academic or community? Three years or four? Where did I want to be, and how important was that compared to everything else? The variety, especially in Emergency Medicine residencies, is astounding. Even among my top choices, there are major differences in the programs, and I know that where I end up will guide the course not only of my next few years, but likely my entire career. I know that no single program is "perfect", and weighing the pros and cons of each was often difficult, but by the time I got to the end, I had settled on a handful of programs I knew I would be very happy and excited to match into.
Since the end of interviews, I have done what I can to keep myself distracted, with rotations, and research, and planning a global health elective in India. But my mind has consistently returned to the anticipation of this week, of finding out what that next step will be. And so I wait, with 150 or so of my classmates, and thousands more across the country, for Friday morning, my fingers crossed with a mixture of nervousness and excitement.
For me, the start of fourth year brought about both uncertainty and freedom. To avoid becoming overwhelmed by the application process, I tried hard to capitalize on my newfound spare time and maintain a balanced life. I didn’t want to look back and feel I’d forgotten to enjoy my final year of school simply because I was so wrapped up in all of the uncertainty. As such, I’ve stayed active by working on research, keeping in shape, preparing (kind of) for some triathlons, and watching pretty much every free movie on Netflix. I planned some trips, and in April, I’ll be heading to California with some classmates to run a Ragnar Relay. Because of the relative freedom of fourth year, I’ve been able to foster my personal interests, and it has been so refreshing.
Keeping myself busy, I feel fortunate that I’ve been able to keep from thinking too much about this whole match thing. I knew I would likely match, which was reassuring. Plus, every single program I included on my rank list impressed me, and having lived all over the United States, I felt open to the possibility of training at any of the programs. So up to this point, the thought of matching hasn’t been overly consuming. And when my family and friends have asked about it, I’ve typically minimized the importance of Match Day.
On Monday, we all received an email outlining the list of Match Day festivities. There’s the ceremony, a reception, two class events, and a mixer the following evening. My first thoughts were that this all seemed a bit excessive. But thinking about it, when you strip away the congratulatory indulgences, Match Day is about people realizing a longtime dream, and I’m no exception. As much as I’ve tried to downplay the significance of Match Day, the truth is that Friday will be a very meaningful experience. Regardless of where I end up, Friday brings confirmation that I will become an anesthesiologist, and that’s huge.
Keeping Myself Busy
Matching in Dermatology is no easy task. I knew I had to apply to a large number of programs and go on as many interviews as possible. Not only this, but I also had to apply to and interview separately for internship, the one year of internal medicine required before starting the 3-year dermatology residency.
November and December were distressing months - would I get enough interviews? The magic dermatology interview number is 8-10, where one can start feeling more comfortable about matching. I waited patiently for my interview invites, checking my e-mail multiple times a day, heart pounding each time my phone buzzed. My worries were assuaged once I surpassed the magic number, and I switched my focus to performing well on interviews.
Although the cross-country flights and long interview days drained me, I grew more and more excited about starting my career in dermatology. I met numerous inspiring, brilliant, and dedicated dermatology residents and attendings – I looked forward to having such top-notch teachers and colleagues.
At the end of January, I finally settled back in Philly. During the past few weeks, I have kept myself busy with class, friends, and practicing for Spoof, the medical school play. This past Monday I found out I matched - now I wait until Friday to open the envelope that will tell me where I will be for internship and dermatology residency. Meanwhile, I am thankful for all of the distractions in my life that keep me from dwelling too much on Match Day!