After experiencing the Match process and coming out the other side with successful matches at prestigious institutions across the U.S., a cohort of recent graduates of the University of Vermont College of Medicine were co-authors of a book for other medical and pre-medical students. Titled “Medical School and the Residency Match: A Post-Match Debrief from Recent Matchers,” it draws from their experiences and answers questions about everything from interview dinner etiquette to travel logistics to some strategies for fourth-year away rotations. It was recently named the #1 New Release in its category on Amazon.com. Editor Michal Ursiny, M.D.’15, has written a blog post to answer some questions about the project.
Q1: How did this project come about and what was the goal of this book?
The idea percolated for about a year, but really got momentum once I was out on the residency interview trail. I learned so much about my candidacy, what residency programs cared about, and what other students did at their own schools. My conclusion from this endeavor was that when it came to having an overarching strategy for approaching medical school in the most efficient way, pretty much everyone was flying by the seat of their pants. The goal of this book is to share lessons learned from 10+ successful matchers so other students can formulate a strategy to optimize their candidacies come match time. The point isn’t to have everyone get accepted into the most competitive specialties possible, but rather to optimize each student’s candidacy over the long term so that come Match Day, they have the most choices at their disposal.
Q2: What do you think readers will take away?
Mike: From my first year on, there was one thing I wanted when it came time to Match: choices. Whether you’re a student about to begin your first year or in the middle of your fourth year, choice and some semblance of control is what you want. The Match is not about choice for most students, but some of us thought it could be. The book addresses mistakes made as well as successful choices that served students well. Based on these experiences, future students can have a lay of the land so they can strategize and prepare. All of us had a similar notion: if this Match process was so educational to us, why not pass the knowledge on to future medical school graduates to act upon before their fourth year?
Q3: How did the book come together logistically?
Mike: Pretty simply, really. I contacted other medical students I knew well and whose opinions and experiences I thought would be valuable. You can find them by clicking this link: http://medicalmatchbook.com/authors.html. I gave them prompts to start with, but mainly just gave them free rein to share thoughts. We were putting this book together in the midst of residency interviews and shortly afterward, when the whole experience was very fresh in our heads, so there was plenty of information to draw from.
Q4: What was the underlying organizing principle, or driving force, behind the book?
Mike: As an author team, we thought it was important to include a range of stories and experiences – some students knew what they wanted to specialize in; others changed their minds late in the process. Some went into the Match with a wealth of life experience; others had gone straight from undergrad to med school. But most importantly, this book is incredibly honest. You get that with a student-written book. I told the contributors they could write whatever they wanted and I wouldn’t censor it at all. The point was to help out future students, and every author was willing to share their embarrassments and successes all the same. The book certainly is not a work of literary genius, but it’s an inspiring display of humility and selflessness in a demographic that is type-A, proud, and failure-averse.
Q5: Some memorable excerpts?
Mike: Below are some excerpts and you can find a couple more here: http://medicalmatchbook.com/book-excerpts.html
On USMLE Step 1: “The process will suck the life out of you, so fight back and try to maintain having an actual human being’s lifestyle. Also, try to exercise, eat healthy and get enough sleep. I had a whole week where I ate cheesy rice, frosting out of the container and had somewhere in the neighborhood of five cups of coffee per day. Don’t do that. I felt like shit and had an awful study week. Go to the grocery store, I promise it’s worth losing a little bit of study time.” (Alyssa Mendelson, General Surgery)
On Clerkship Year: “I started clerkship year much more timid than I am now. There were times when I felt like a burden on the residents, fellows, and attendings with whom I was working, and so I would avoid asking questions. Eventually, I had the realization that I was there to learn and staying quiet when I had a question didn’t help my learning experience or my grade.” (Cameron S., Internal Medicine)
On Letters of Recommendation: “The take home point is that as one approaches the clinical years, perhaps more importantly than outgunning your colleagues, or honoring all of your rotations, is conveying a sense of professionalism and maturity; even if you don’t ace your shelf exams you will demonstrate your value as part of a team, and your colleagues and mentors will be more than happy to support you when it comes time to apply for residency.” (G. Michael Krauthamer, Emergency Medicine)
Find out more about the book: Medical School and the Residency Match: A Post-Match Debrief of Recent Matchers by Johnson et. al. (DoubleU Publishers, Boston, MA)