Mar 19, 2012

Remembering the Match Day Madness

Joshua Liao, BA, BS
Editor’s note: Joshua Liao, a fourth year medical student at Baylor College of Medicine, participated in Match Day this past Friday, where he found out that he will begin his Internal Medicine Residency this July at Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston, MA.
Most students have heard about the raw emotions—from elation to disappointment to contentment—on display during Match Day. As several leaders shared remarks in the minutes before envelopes were passed out last Friday, this became absolutely true for me. I felt the nervousness rising inside my chest, and I couldn’t take my eyes off the Match Board, the enormous vehicle my school uses for “job notification.” At Baylor, each student’s name is printed on the board with a corresponding envelope stapled beneath. The board is then covered by wrapping paper and parked behind the speakers until the appointed time.
Eventually, the envelopes were unveiled, and the seconds after I opened mine were a blur. I remember clenching my fist in gratitude before my loved ones mobbed me with congratulations. Behind me, shouts of joy mixed with epic, celebratory music. On the outside, I sensed my lips drawing into a wide, irresistible grin. Inside, I was absolutely ecstatic. I had matched into an absolutely amazing internal medicine residency.
After percolating in the feeling for several moments, I phoned my parents (who live in China) and then moved into the courtyard, congratulating my classmates and seeking out key mentors to thank them for their help and encouragement. Photos were taken, but I forget how many. There were many more hugs and handshakes. By the end of the event, I was exhausted and content.
Now, even just days after the Match festivities, I am struck by several important lessons about the whole process:
First, the moment can pass quickly. Plenty of people warned me about the intense emotions, but none told me how rapidly the whole thing would move. It felt like only seconds between the speeches and the paper being torn away from the board. I moved through the crowd to the board and removed my envelope, all without fully realizing it was happening. Seconds later, I was hugging my friends and family, and the uncertainty and nervousness had suddenly given way to relief and joy. The moment was like the first seconds after a dive into a cold pool; I felt the weight of my own feelings before I even realized them.
Second, the event can be as much the reinforcement of the past as it is the beginning of the future. Most know and think of Match Day as the beginning of new chapters in our lives, and in many ways, they are right. But as I embraced, laughed, and exchanged the good news with classmates, I realized how the moment seemed to strengthen my feelings toward them and my desire to stay in close touch going forward. Along my path around the courtyard, I ran into friends with whom I’d shared long study sessions, call nights, difficult cases, and extracurricular activities. I was able to enjoy a few moments with my closest friends from my medical school class. I found myself not only congratulating many of them, but also hoping sincerely that we would continue to stay in touch—in person, for those who’d be in the same city as me; via regular phone or webchat meetings for the others. Ultimately, I knew well in advance that Match Day would be a time to look ahead to residency. But I didn’t know it would stir such a strong sense of camaraderie and the desire to intentionally preserve my meaningful medical school friendships through demanding residency schedules. The thought felt warm against my chest.
Third, and most importantly, Match Day can be a powerful reminder of all the friends, family, and mentors who helped shape us. Some say that no man is an island, and that idea was never truer for me than during Friday’s celebrations. The notification paper only listed my name and the program’s name, but I remembered all the thoughtful letters of recommendation, advice, and input that contributed to that pairing. Several loved ones, friends, and mentors were present, and I was able to look them in the eyes and share from my deep gratitude. I owe long, thankful phone calls or letters to those who were not in attendance. Regardless, they were all in my thoughts almost immediately after I opened my envelope, where they have continued to linger in the hours and days following.
So for now, I will bask in the moment, thankful for the supporters and friends who journeyed through medical school with me. I will replay the moment from Match Day in my mind a few more times, to remember the anticipation and aftermath of it. But after a few days of this, I must stop. I have many letters of appreciation to write.
Where did you get matched? Leave a comment below and let us know where you’ll be starting your residency.