Editors’ Note: This week is Match Week, the long-awaited yearly event when graduating medical students across the country learn if they match to a residency program and, if so, where they’ve been accepted. This week we hear from two students with a different take on Match Day, held on Friday, March 20.
On January 13, while on my subinternship internal medicine rotation and seeing my patients before formal rounds, I received the call. The ophthalmology match process occurs several months sooner than the more common Electronic Residency Application Service system, and due to the much smaller number of students matching, is a much quieter affair. As I swiped right to answer the call, my mind began to race. “This is finally it,” I thought. My last five years at Albert Einstein College of Medicine were culminating in this single phone call. My future program director then proceeded to congratulate me and inform me where I would spend the next few years of my life as a resident.
In the months since matching, I finally have had ample time to think about my journey—not only how my experiences at Einstein have affected and shaped me, but also how they will affect my future medical career.
Starting on the Path
Looking back at my first two years at Einstein, it is clear to me how far my classmates and I have come. As students, we found ourselves in somewhat familiar territory, doing things such as studying from never-ending PowerPoints for our exams. However, we were also slowly learning about ourselves and about our unique interests within medicine. My early interest in surgery, for example, pushed me to co-lead the Surgery Interest Group and explore the field as a possible career. A fellow student’s interest in health policy allowed him the chance to be elected to the Student Governing Body and represent Einstein at national meetings. These small but constant discoveries directed my classmates and me down our own distinct paths through medical school.
Making Tough Choices in Clerkship
Clerkship year at Einstein was a transformative experience. Having successfully passed the first major hurdle of medical school, the USMLE Step 1 exam, my classmates and I were finally ready to leave the classroom and expose ourselves to the realities of clinical medicine. It was a challenging year, as each clerkship forced us constantly to adapt to different cultures and patient experiences while simultaneously learning new material. Most importantly, we were brought face-to-face with ourselves. The process of choosing the right type of medical field, I found, was difficult. While a few of my classmates have known for many years which specialties they’ve wanted to enter, for many students, including me, clerkship year with its myriad experiences was a pivotal year. With every rotation I was pushed and pulled in different directions in an attempt to narrow down my field of choice. Some of the important questions that my classmates and I asked ourselves included:
- “Could I see myself doing this for another 30 years?”
- “Do these types of patients stir compassion and empathy within me?”
- “Is the intensity, or lack thereof, of the field something I will enjoy later in life?”
A Career Emerges
For me, the first big revelation was that I could not see myself practicing medicine without being in the operating room. Surgery, with its clear, team-based approach to the care of the patient and the ability to intervene immediately and positively in the patient’s life, continued to appeal to me. However, it was during my internal medicine clerkship that I was really exposed to the clinical problem-solving aspects of medicine. I witnessed how the difficulty of managing chronic conditions created frustrating and difficult experiences for patients. The opportunity to guide and help patients through their journeys is one that I found tremendously satisfying. Ultimately, my clerkship experience led me to ophthalmology, allowing me the chance to manage patients both medically and surgically.
It is hard to stop and think in medical school. Exam after exam, and deadline after deadline—the medical school process can at times feel like a long conveyer belt, on one end of which you begin a naïve student, and on the other end of which, prior to shipping out, you graduate on the way to becoming a seasoned doctor. Nonetheless, it is an amazing journey filled with experiences, both large and small, that have shaped us into who we are today, and the doctors we’ll be tomorrow. As Match Day approaches and I see my classmates experience the time dilation I felt in early January, I’d like to remind them that each bump and curve in our long journeys to Match Day has led us to our own unique destinations. My journey to Match Day has ended, and I can’t wait for them to join me.