Happy Monday folks!
It’s been a while since I posted anything medicine related. So I thought I would write a bit about my journey right after graduation and how I feel now about residency applications this upcoming match season. A word of warning, Part 1 is a little depressing but it works its way up to a more positive Part 2. 🙂
Try, try and try again until you succeed!
I have attempted matching into residency for several years now since medical school graduation. In addition to the thousands of dollars we pay for medical school and medical exams, we also invest thousands of dollars towards applications to CaRMS (Canadian residency program service) and ERAS (US residency program service).
I will clarify what MATCH is. We graduate from medical school and then we need to be formally trained in a specialty (i.e. family medicine/pediatrics/internal medicine/obstetrics gynecology/psychiatry/surgery etc.). The formal training can be two – ten years (depending on the specialty and whether you want to further sub-specialize). After the training (and more exams), we can practice independently. The Match process takes place when we send out our applications (much like a job application) and programs call us for interviews. If we like them and they like us – it is a match! The problem is, there are many more applicants than there are residency positions. So many of us go unmatched with no spot to start our training. Oh, those rejection emails.
Every year I looked at my application and thought, what did I lack this year? What could I do better next time? There obviously must have been something because I did not match after attending interviews! (Funny video below 😉 Enjoy!)
- USMLE Step 1, 2, 3 ✔
- Canadian MCCEE, NAC-OSCE ✔
- Rotations and a SubI in FM in the United States ✔
- Volunteer positions ✔
- Observerships after graduation ✔
- Letters of recommendation (LORS) ✔
- CV and personal statement ✔
- Professional interview preparation sessions ✔
- bloody TOEFL exam to prove that I knew how to speak, read and write English because I attended medical school abroad (grrrrr) ✔
My scores and rotations performance cannot change. Year after year, what CAN change? Observerships/traineeships, LORs, CV, personal statement, interview prep….what else? What made me unique, what sets me apart from other applicants?
After graduation when I didn’t match, I grew depressed. I do not use this word lightly. I did not want to get out of bed. I would break into tears very randomly. I would go to the temple and sit in a corner and cry, asking God why am I in this position? I did not socialize and avoided all get-togethers for the fear of being asked by some Uncle and Aunty “so what are you doing with your life now? You’ve graduated from medicine and you still don’t have a job?” Did they not realize how these words were kicking my (already very little) confidence into a black hole.
Then, more dangerous (irrational) thoughts – what a disappointment I am to my family. My family must think they wasted so much money on my education. I don’t deserve to have loving family and friends around me. I should quit medicine and find a job at Tim Hortons or McDonald’s to help pay the bills – but what experience do I have to work there?? Would they even hire me?
With the help of my family and friends….one day I had enough of my moping. I felt physically sick by my thoughts. I spent hours in front of the laptop and on the phone, sending out many many emails and made many phone calls to residency programs, research programs, Professors, hospitals, YOU NAME IT. I needed to get out of this rut. I was faced with many emails that turned me down or well, no replies whatsoever. They could probably hear my lack of confidence over the phone and read it in my emails.
Then in August 2013, a friend pulled some strings to find me a volunteer research job at an allergy clinic. I took it! I drove 85 km in the morning to work and 85 km back home, five days a week, unpaid just so that I can keep in touch with medicine, socialize with medical people, do something fun and interesting with my life. This got the ball rolling. I used this job experience to help me find the next one that was much closer to home and so much cooler. It was in a wonderful hospital where I held two positions.
More on the next post as a Critical Care Research Coordinator and Medical Simulation Specialist!