Mar 14, 2012

Enjoying the Milieu of Matching: Reflections from a First Year Intern

The fourth year of medical school is a rather strange mix. You spend much of the months of November to January travelling all over, living completely out of a suitcase, and wearing the same dark suit for days on end. This is followed by whatever method you might choose for ranking the places that you would like to complete residency. Some people make endless lists of pros/cons, others continue to research every possible detail about programs, hospitals, cities, and the like. All of this leads up to filling out the rank list with NRMP (National Resident Matching Program), checking it a few (possibly a dozen) times, submitting the list, and waiting for almost a month.

Then comes Match Week – probably one of the most unusual ways ever to find out about one’s first job (or at least the first as an MD/DO).

The second week of March is filled with a roller-coaster of emotions for fourth-year medical students across the country. There’s the universal anxiety about receiving the email from NRMP on Monday morning – “Did I match?” – followed by a week of anticipation. Medical schools seem to handle Match Day in one of two main ways. Most medical schools convene students (often for the first time in many months) to celebrate the achievements of the class. Some schools (like mine) have students announce where they will spend the next 3-7+ years in training one-by-one in front of a crowd of classmates, families, and friends. Other schools (so I’m told) have students open their match letters all at once, allowing for a bit more private experience. In both situations, the primary motive is to celebrate the achievement of students completing the four years of medical school now embarking on the next part of their training.

As I look back on my own Match Day, I’d encourage those of you reading this to make sure you take the chance to celebrate. Take a little time to reflect on what you have accomplished and to enjoy a day with the people with whom you have worked throughout medical school. In addition, celebrate with attendings, faculty, and mentors alike. Match Day, for many students, will be one of the very last times that you spend with your classmates. Some classes decide to celebrate on the morning before Match Day with a makeshift “tailgate” (caution: rumor has it this can be dangerous), while others host parties afterwards for students and faculty. In whichever way you choose, take the time to enjoy your individual and collective accomplishments. The next few weeks and months will be filled with final rotations, travels to find a new place to live, and hopefully at least a little time to relax. Graduation will find most people in the midst of life changes, marriages, babies, moving, and that day will come and go rather quickly. Take the time on Match Day to realize what you’ve accomplished and to re-connect with the people who were alongside you on the lengthy journey from the anatomy lab, through the classroom, and onto the wards. It’s an exciting week; make the most of it. Good luck!!

- Ross W. Hilliard, MD, Internal Medicine Intern, Rhode Island Hospital and The Miriam Hospital, Brown University/Lifespan