There’s another kind of madness going on this March. More than 17,000 medical students in the United States will anxiously await their residency selections in the halls of medical schools across the country at 1 p.m. on Friday, March 21. This fateful day is Match Day 2014.
On this day every year, medical students’ fates for the next three years are handed to them in sealed envelopes, with their futures in medicine spelled out in an instant. To mark the occasion and comiserate with those facing their futures this week, some of our physician bloggers shared memories and words of wisdom from their own Match Day experiences.
Dr. Claire McCarthy is a primary care pediatrician at Boston Children’s Hospital. She also writes the MD Mama blog for Boston.com.
I was nervous. Boston Children’s was one of my top three, including Philadelphia Children’s Hospital, and Children’s National Medical Center in D.C. I remember feeling like there was nothing I could do, and I was standing in this room waiting to hear where I was going to be for the next three years. It’s such a strange concept that my life could literally turn on a dime in an instant.
Somebody was literally deciding where I was going to live. There was something really infuriating and scary about that, but I felt that I was on the brink of a real adventure. There was something about the fact that somebody else was making this decision that was really liberating and exciting. Even though I got where I wanted to be, really at that moment I didn’t care. Because at that point, it was out of my hands. There was nothing more that I could do, and I figured I’d work it out wherever I was. Whatever was in that envelope, that’s where I would go, and it was kind of magical. It was that feeling like you’re right at the beginning of a new adventure. There was a little part of me that was disappointed i didn’t get to have an adventure somewhere new, but it’s important to remember that things work out in life. Wherever you go, residency is an adventure.
Dr. Suzanne Koven is a primary care physician at Mass. General Hospital in Boston. She also writes our In Practice blog on Boston.com.
After a breakfast during which our kindly dean told us everything would be okay no matter what (which no one, of course, believed) we trooped into the auditorium and were called up one by one to get our envelopes. People then screamed, cried, or were silent.
Can you imagine any other profession offering people jobs in such a strange and public way? I guess the idea was that an internship wasn’t a job, it was an initiation into a kind of club or priesthood with its own rituals, and Match Day is one of them.
Dr. Sushrut Jangi is an internist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. He also writes the Boston Medical Mysteries blog on Boston.com.
Forty years ago my father had his own kind of Match Day back in India. He had applied for two positions in Bombay: one in engineering and another in medicine, but wasn’t sure which one he would get. On the morning of his engineering interview, he stepped outside and found the streets flooded with nearly two feet of water from the overnight monsoon rain. The railroad tracks were submerged.
Having no way to get to the university campus, he found his engineering hopes dashed. The very next day, as luck would have it, he was called for an interview at Sion Hospital – a medical center in downtown Bombay. He got home that evening and told his parents that he was going to become a doctor.
Four decades later, my father is near to retiring from a long and wonderful career in primary care medicine; he has practiced a few miles outside of Boston and adored every minute of it.
Recently, I was waiting for him to arrive during my own Match Day in 2009, in a large hall at University of Massachusetts Medical School. A dean at the podium was reading each of our names. When she handed the envelope to me, friends gathered around, asking where I’d matched. But I kept it closed, waiting for my parents. When they finally arrived, we went into a quiet corner. The crowd had thinned a bit. My heart was pounding.
Some of the biggest choices we make in life: what we do for work, whom we marry, where we decide to live, are often shaped by circumstances beyond our control, a chance encounter, a missed train, a heavy rain. Sometimes, all we must do is close our eyes, take a deep breath, and gather the people we love near us as fortune sends us off into tomorrow.
My family beside me, I opened the envelope.
Is today your Match Day? Do you remember a Match Day from the past? Share your stories with us!