Saturday, March 15, 2014

Match 2014 Episode I (the prequel)


Depending on where you're seeing this, you will likely see a mirrored copy of this blog post on either Penn Medicine's Match Day series, or on my personal blog site. A special thank you to Penn Med's dept of communications for helping me organize my thoughts into a three part series.

I have heard nothing back yet about where I stand in the match, and it's pretty nerve wracking. To bring you up to speed, here's the sequence of events in Match 2014 (I took this directly from the National Residency Match Program website).

It's hard to believe that just a few weeks ago I was looking through long spreadsheets with complex calculations trying to figure out how to rank the programs I was interested in. I had multiple categories: location, cost of living, "feel" of the program, future opportunities, future "settle down" potential, etc. I designed an awkward weighting for each of the categories. Then I plugged in hard values based on my interview day (and research from here for cost of living). All of this culminated in a final rank list. I compared this against a more subjective rank list I'd come up with (which had significant input from my fiancee). Funny enough, they were very similar (which probably means my subjective selection took into account all the objective categories in the excel calculator).

Finally, with my fiancee on the line, I clicked "Certify my rank order list" one final time. All of this happened a few days ahead of the Feb 26th deadline.

What now?  ...We sit on our hands till Match day rolls around. In a way - this is good. There's nothing more (within reason) we can do to affect the outcome of the match process. So, every time I start dreaming (or nightmare-ing) about match day / week, it's easy enough to tell myself: "Well, I can't do anything about it, so I might as well just sit on my hands and watch some TV."

Problem is - how many people in the medical field do you know who are ok with sitting on their hands? In many cases (many more than medicine would like to accept) - doing less is better. But doctors have historically been horrible at doing less. Discussing whether or not doing less is more is a topic for another day - but suffice it to say that doctors, as a whole, prefer to do rather than not do. This makes it very hard for us as fledgling doctors to sit on our hands while a magical computer in the sky crunches numbers and decides our fates.

The best we can do is keep ourselves busy. On a personal level - I have a lot riding on this (as does everyone). This is my third career. I put quite a bit on the line by leaving the corporate pharmaceutical world after 5 years and entering medical school. It may be an oversimplification - but all your efforts over your 4(+) years in medical school boils down to this: the Match. It will determine where you'll end up for the next 3 or more years of your life. In some cases, it also determines what path you walk down - what kind of doctor you'll become. No pressure.

I'm lucky in a way: I was doing some clinical rotations for the past few weeks. I'm also directing, acting, dancing, collecting funds for and making ads for the medical school play we do every year. All of this keeps me busy by default. And there's all these TV shows I have to catch up on!

But patience has never been my strong suit. And limbo sucks.

NRMP hasn't been too helpful either. You find out on Monday if you matched, then on Friday you find out where you matched. The reason for this separation is the the back-up process built into the match called SOAP (Supplementary Offer and Acceptance Program). SOAP kicks in if you do not match in the first round of matching. Mind you, this is significantly better than the previous back-up process (affectionately referred to as "The Scramble") because SOAP is more computer-based. So, why is NRMP not being very helpful during our wait? They send us emails telling us about our eligibility for SOAP. When you open their emails, it takes a second or two for you two realize that NRMP is telling you nothing about whether you matched or not - they are just saying "hey, you have everything ready to participate in SOAP... just in case". Which is definitely nice of them to do! But for neurotic medical students, those few seconds of panic is quite painful.

So here I sit, waiting for Monday (2 days away) to find out if I matched. I am secretly happy that I'm eligible for SOAP (most people who go through the match process are) - just in case. I've thought through possible Plan Bs, Cs and Ds. I'm not sure what's worse - waiting till I find out if I matched, or waiting between Monday and Friday to find out where I matched. I'll report back on that.

The oddest thing? I'm not excited. I'm just nervous and anxious to get this over with. I'm hoping this changes after Monday - when I find out if I matched. After everything we've been through to get here, this should be a very exciting time for us. Here's hoping the excitement mounts soon and overshadows all this anxiety and nervousness.

I will end with one of my favorite images on the net:

- Karthik the-not-so-patient.


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