Rite of Passage: Match Day 2017
By: Author: Susan Folsom, MD | Mar 24, 2017 1:00 PM
Training the next generation of doctors is critical to our future. We are facing a national shortage of physicians, and at the rate our population is aging, the Association of American Medical Colleges projects a shortage of up to 104,900 physicians by 2030. Fortunately, this year’s Match Day provides some encouraging news. A record number of more than 30,000 graduating medical students across the nation simultaneously participated in this rite of passage, and 94 percent of U.S. applicants matched to residency positions.
Out of the 92 students who matched this year at the University of Utah, 47 are women and 45 are men. They matched into 46 programs in 20 different specialties across 29 states in order to continue their medical training. Forty of our students matched to primary care residencies in medicine, pediatrics and family medicine, and 23 of them will perform all or a portion of their residency in Utah.
In many ways, for medical students, Match Day is symbolic for starting the first day of the rest of their lives. School of Medicine graduate Susan Folsom (’17) shares her experience and the events that led up to that fateful day.
Guest Blog by Susan Folsom:
There are certain events in life that we use to measure before and after. Before my younger siblings were born, and after. Before I graduated from college, and after. For medical students, Match Day is one such pivotal event.
My ‘before’ Match Day story began when I was 17 and visiting the Big Apple for my mom's birthday. While riding the subway, I happened to sit next to a woman who told me about how she had spent most of her life as an OB-GYN, caring for women in remote regions of the world. Up until that moment, I was pretty sure I'd be a harpist, or a chemistry professor, or both, but it had never crossed my mind that I could become a doctor. As this woman spoke of her rigorous, but rewarding career, I felt powerfully that my own gifts, desires and passions were perfectly suited for medicine. After disembarking the subway that snowy night, I could sense a significant shift in my life's path.
In the years that followed I filled countless white boards with pharmacology facts and anatomy pneumonics. Then, alongside my remarkable classmates, I survived the grueling crucible of my clinical years. My third year as a medical student was the hardest. I was my residents’ stumbling shadow, following more than one intern into a bathroom because I didn't want to miss a thing. And yet, my third year was also the year I grew the most. I delivered a baby. I sat with a patient as they died. I made my first correct diagnosis. And, for the first time, I really felt like a doctor.
The application process for residency brought a different kind of anxiety. Matching to a residency program is a very involved process that lasts nearly a year. Once invited for an interview, slots fill within minutes and there is no guarantee that you'll get the slot you wanted, or a slot at all. I remember one day, when I was invited to interview at a “dream program,” I literally dropped everything I was carrying and ran into the library to get better Wi-Fi. I got my preferred interview slot but lost half my lunch on the concrete in the process!
Interview season involved months of traveling while living in a suit and out of a suitcase. Our destiny was now in the hands of the stoic faces asking us to articulate our plans for a future we hadn't quite figured out ourselves. It was like high stakes speed dating and after four long months of waiting, on Match Day, I really hoped I’d be hearing from “the one."
My dad flew in from Oregon the night before, after I’d kept him up half the night talking. My best friend from college came with her kids. My mom was supposed to be there, but when my sister-in-law went into premature labor with twins, she boarded a plane for California instead. Thanks to modern technology, they facetimed from the hospital bed. You could feel the anxiety bubbling throughout the crowded hall. Our years of soul-wrenching work, tied up in 100 paper envelopes on a red table-cloth. Then, finally, we opened the results.
Even if you haven't seen the pictures or videos of Match Day, you can imagine the eruption of emotion that ensued. It was a veritable volcano. I matched at my No. 1 program (Northwestern) as did many of my classmates, and suddenly our fates were strewn across a map of the U.S.
Matching was an exciting but exhausting process. I’ve found that it’s difficult for those who have not experienced the painstaking hours of preparation to really understand what that day means for us. But in reflecting on that day, I think the most important takeaway is this: Matching, regardless of where or in what specialty, is simply a step to our true goal. Matching means that we get to spend our lives learning and serving. We get to be doctors. I remember the Winston Churchill quote that [former dean] Dr. Vivian Lee shared at Match Day: “This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning." So much happened before Match Day, but I cannot wait to see what comes after.comments powered by Disqus