At last entry I was anxiously, VERY anxiously I might add, awaiting the results of the “Match”. The process in which medical students in their last year of training, foreign graduates, and US graduates who haven’t “matched” apply for a spot in a residency training program in the specialty of their choice. In order to be a practicing physician you can’t just go to med school and be done with it. You need to apply for and successfully complete a residency training program in your chosen specialty and that can last anywhere from 3-8 years MORE after medical school depending on the field you want to go into! And just like admission into medical school, landing a residency spot is NOT guaranteed and VERY hard to come by. With only about 25,000 spots and about > 60,000 applicants, it’s basically the “Hunger Games” of the medical world especially in the sense that being from the right “district” (aka right medical school) can make a world of difference. I’ve pretty much gone over the hectic process of applying in previous posts, I think, so I won’t go into detail here but as a quick summary, the process of applying starts in September, interviews begin in October and can last up until early February and you find out if you “matched” in March! A process that takes 7 months and involves traveling, money, stress, emotions, anxiety, fear, depression, weather changes, airports, train stations, bus stations, hotels, motels, rental cars, taxis…pretty much all means of transportation to get where you need to be for these interviews and all included emotions as well! Not to mention that when things go wrong, they go really wrong and all those weird traveling mishaps that you hear about start happening to you! Best advice for the traveling, is be prepared and try to stick to carry on only! Last thing you need is to get your luggage lost the night before your interview!!!
I applied to 75 Internal Medicine programs and 30 Family Medicine residency programs for a total of 105 programs which cost me around $2300 in application fees alone, not including cost of travel, lodging, and food. Out of those 105 I was lucky enough to be invited for 16 interviews, 11 family medicine and 5 internal medicine. These places ranged from the west coast to the east coast and a few places in between. It’s funny when I think about it but when I started the journey into medicine I thought I wanted to do one thing (Oncology), which is why I applied to more IM programs, but as the interview process started playing itself out, I started to realize that what I originally wanted was no longer the same. I realized that my passion in medicine didn’t lie with just one subset of patients with just one subset of disease. I needed variability, I needed connection, and I needed family. I needed to know that what I do for patients won’t just impact them but also their family and community.
Having the privilege to interview at both IM and FM programs opened my eyes to the fact that FM truly was for me. It was something about the environment of IM programs that no longer appealed to me after interviewing at different FM programs. FM programs were welcoming, warm, and friendly, while IM programs were more strict, cold, and distant. In an FM interview there would be maybe 2 or 3 other candidates but at an IM interview there were around 20-30 other candidates. It took away from the personal aspect of interviewing, I didn’t feel that the interviewers were actually getting to know me but rather just asking me a list of questions they had to get through. FM interviews flowed like conversations, what I liked, what I didn’t like, do I have hobbies, it was personal and never about medicine but about me, who I am as a person. I felt myself open up on these interviews, divulge parts of my life to complete strangers in hopes that they would “like” me enough to rank me for their program.
One interview in particular I won’t forget was at Hennepin County Medical Center, with the program director (PD) and everything was flowing perfectly as if we had known each other for years. As the PD was interviewing me she asked me who my hero was, I paused for a second, and responded that my mother was my hero, when she asked why, I took another pause and suddenly found myself on the verge of tears. The PD looked at me and without skipping a beat handed me a tissue and said let it out, and I did and when I composed myself, I answered the question, because she’s the strongest person I know. She has been through so much, lived through so much, and has had so many reasons to just give up, and she doesn’t. She never does, she never shows it, she keeps on and she taught me that, she showed me that, she made it a point to always tell me that education is the greatest weapon I can wield and that it’ll be the key that will open any door I want and that if it isn’t opening a door, then it’ll open the window. The PD then grabbed a tissue for herself and in that moment aside from feeling foolish for CRYING at a residency interview of all places, I felt happy that I was able to share that with the PD. That moment is honestly the main reason that I ranked HCMC as my #1 program on my rank list.
Then the big day came, “Match Day”!!! The do or die moment, the did I make it moment…the day I would find out if all my struggles, sacrifices, efforts, hard work, determination, rejections, failures, successes, and hopes were worth it and then the email arrived at 12pm and I saw the words:
“Congratulations! You have Matched!”
Words could not begin describe the feeling of joy that moment gave me and then to look over and see my fiancé, Victor, open his results and see the same result, it was happiness x 1,000 to know that we both matched in the same city with at our #1 choices! We did it, we couples matched!!!
It’s a feeling of indescribable joy to know that this kid,who dreamt of being a doctor is whole life, is having his dreams come true!!! Truly I owe it all to my family, fiancé, and friends who have always been there for me, their unconditional love and support throughout this crazy journey of mine has given me the strength and determination to go after this dream of mine!
So what’s next, our happy asses are moving to Minneapolis, Minnesota where I’ll be a Family Medicine Resident at Hennepin County Medical Center and he will be a Pathology Resident at the University of Minnesota and we couldn’t be happier!!!