Prior to medical school, the word ‘match’ had little meaning to me. I sometimes ‘matched’ pairs of socks after doing my laundry, but that was mostly about it. Now, after experiencing UVM Match Day for the third consecutive year, the term has taken on a whole new meaning. For me – and likely many other members of my class – it is a word that has become so simultaneously loaded with feelings of promise and heartbreak, anxiety and relief, that I will almost certainly never be able to look at my socks the same way again.
I have not matched yet. I am a brand new fourth year, recently delivered from the exciting, and at times, turbulent waters of third year clerkships to the sunnier shores of subinternships, electives and reading months. And while the process of matching is not that far away for our class, I admittedly spend a fair amount of time in the present, trying to wrap my head around what the experience of matching (and everything that comes immediately before and after) must feel like in the first-person.
As fourth year advances, my understanding of the word ‘match’ will undoubtedly change. But for now, I define it simply as I see it, hear it and feel it around me. On one hand, my mathematical-self understands that ‘matching’ is an algorithmic process. The National Residency Match Program places medical students, based on rank lists, into various specialties at hospitals across the nation – and sometimes also Canada. My humanistic-self, on the other hand, imagines ‘matching’ to be the emotional equivalent of hopping on a Six-Flags roller coaster after attending an all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet. I strive to find a happy place between these two scenarios.
One thing is for certain – any match is a reason for celebration and congratulations. Behind those envelopes are years of intensive planning and hard work, placing a lot of faith in a system that may seem removed from the day-to-day realities of life and work, and having challenging discussions with loved ones and family members about geography and long-term priorities. So I would like to say thank you and congratulations:
Thank you to the acting interns who found the kindness in their hearts to tell us gently (and discreetly) that we were wearing our stethoscopes backwards when we started out as third years; to the fourth years who taught us that what we were hearing was in fact, not a murmur, but simply aggressive bowel gas. To the graduates who were generous enough to share their stories from the frontlines of their interview trails. To the fourth years who guided and encouraged us in our times of stress and self-doubt, and often, without realizing it, served as our role models. Congratulations, Class of 2015!