Making that Rank Order List

I’m currently on my second (and last) vacation of intern year, and it is also the week that 4th year medical students across the country must submit and certify their Rank Order Lists (ROLs), ranking all of the programs where they interviewed… basically, choosing which programs will be a the top of their lists and which they will *hopefully* Match into next month. In just a few weeks, we find out who will get to replace us as interns next year! (But really, how on earth am I almost a senior resident?!)

Making our ROL last year was much more nerve-wracking than I ever anticipated. It’s a big decision to put all of those programs into a list and then submit that list into an algorithm that has the power to put you (and in my case, a family in tow) anywhere in the country for (potentially) years of your life.

I interviewed at far too many places: I was offered 24 interviews, planned on attending 20 (one was cancelled due to weather and then the program rescheduled me on a date I had an interview somewhere else, so I declined the rescheduled date), actually attended 19, and ranked 14. (My school’s leadership has us all believe we needed a ton of options if we wanted to successfully Match, even in “non-competitive” pediatrics.) Going into interview season, I thought that there would be a few standout programs and the rest would just be “meh”, so it would be easy. Not so. I could have seen myself being happy at just about any of the ones where I interviewed. My approach to every program was: I need my first job as a resident so I can become a badass general pediatrician. That is my top priority. And I think that I could achieve that goal pretty much anywhere. But the next priority was: Where will I be HAPPY? Because that is a completely separate entity. There were a few programs that I honestly thought, “I would be miserable there…..” but with all of the advice I received to “rank every program!”, I was hesitant to discard any of the programs. That being said, it was still much harder to make this ROL than I originally anticipated, so I needed some help with sifting through all of these programs. I did use the NRMP’s PRISM app to submit an initial ranking immediately after each interview, which set me up with a good idea of where they all fit into a list based on many factors, but it still felt a bit off.

I needed something more tactile, more visual. I wrote down every program I interviewed with onto a Post-It. All 19 of them. I then met with my med school advisor/best friend at a bookstore coffeehouse along with The Handsome and The Ladybug. At a tiny table, I took all of those Post-Its and went through them one by one, moving some higher or lower on the list. My advisor/best friend would give her input on the individual programs where she knew people, knew my interests, and knew my family and how they would all fit together. Her input helped immensely! It was nice to step back from the stress of the process to see the big picture. When we left the coffeeshop (An hour later? Two hours later?) I had a rough list and felt a little more reassured. There were still some programs that I wasn’t sure were in the right place on my list, or if I wanted them on the list at all (at that point, I had not yet discarded any of them).

So then, using those same Post-Its, I played a little game. I folded them all up, and over the course of several days, I would randomly draw one and open it…. pretending that was my envelope on Match Day. If I was excited, it stayed at (or moved to) the top of the list. If it made my heart pound and I wanted to cry….. I threw it away. Once I had played this game and drew all of the program names….. I knew my ROL, and I knew it was right for me (and my family). I submitted, certified, and never looked back. Based on the AAMC’s data for pediatrics, I knew there was a >95% chance that I would Match at one of my top 5 programs on my ROL…. and when I opened those 5 Post-It’s, I was very excited. I knew we’d be ok no matter what my envelope  said on Match Day.

I’m glad I don’t have to go through that again… at least until the fellowship Match in two years. 😉

To all of the MS4’s out there stressing over the ROL deadline TOMORROW…. it will all be ok. I can’t wait to see where everyone is headed! (But if you’re going into Peds…. my program is the best and I hope to see you this June!) 🙂

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Match Day

So I haven’t posted in awhile. No worries! Match Week was absolutely crazy, and since Match Day, I’ve celebrated with endless family and friends; looked for, found, and bought a house; started my last rotation of medical school; and have just in general been enjoying life.


I don’t keep it a secret that I had to apply to medical school four times. It’s just a part of my story. However, I truly believe that by going through that process, my self-confidence has been irreparably damaged. I constantly doubt myself. I doubted that I would ever get in; I doubted that I would pass all of my classes; I doubted that I would pass my Step exams; I worried and fretted frequently about my ability to obtain a residency position, or if I did, that it would be in a place that I did not necessarily want, but that I should just feel lucky to have obtained a spot.

I never imagined that I would go from a third-time re-applicant to being actively recruited for my first job as a doctor. Not a single one of those bad, scary things that I lost sleep over ever happened.

I also never imagined that putting together my rank list would have been so hard. I absolutely loved my top 4 programs and was hopeful that I would Match at one of those four; but what if I Matched at the place at the very end of my list? Getting the “Congratulations” email from the NRMP on Monday lifted the fear of not Matching, but waiting four more days to hear where was nerve-wracking. Zillow was confused about why I was looking at houses in four different states.

On Match Day, we arrived at the Mellwood Arts Center early to take part in the festivities. Local organizations were sponsoring giveaways, provided food and drink, etc. The nervous energy that filled the room was intoxicating. My husband and I grabbed a table with several of my friends and their spouses as we anxiously awaited getting our letters at noon.

The last hour felt like it stretched on for ever and ever.

When it was finally time to go up and get our letters, I was a shaking mess. I held the thin white envelope in my hands and I was terrified. Would I Match at my #1? #2? #14?

When we got the go-head at noon, I ripped open the letter, took a deep breath, and looked for my program name.

“IND—

I dropped the letter, clasped my hands to my face and cried. David picked up the letter, read it, and cried too. Screams of triumph filled the room. Smiles were plentiful. Everyone at my table Matched at their #1 program!

 

We are moving back to Indianapolis! We could not be happier.

129 Days


Today I was reminded that even though I’ve learned so much in med school, there is still SO MUCH I don’t know and need to learn, practice and repeat. The answers don’t always come from textbooks. I am so thankful that as an intern, there will still be several layers of supervision as I learn to navigate the responsibility of making medical decisions. 129 days! Tonight’s agenda, though, is learning about QI & peds EKGs as well as reviewing some articles & brushing up on sedation meds. (And NO, I’m not hardcore studying for Step 3 yet, but I ALWAYS keep reading material & a To Do list on me!)

On a separate note, my ROL (rank order list, the list of my preferred residency programs in the order of my preference) is certified and will be locked in tomorrow night at 9pm. Match Day is LESS THAN A MONTH AWAY and I am so excited. I just want to KNOW already. I’m itching to start the house hunting, moving, moving on with my life, etc!

Interview Season in Pictures

The best year of medical school is the year you are accepted. The second best year is 4th year. Or so I was told four years ago. =)

Somehow it is already Christmas Break of my 4th year of medical school and in less than 5 months people will start calling me “Doctor” and I’m actually going to know how to do stuff and know things. It’s pretty unbelievable that after so many years of wanting to go to medical school and going through the process of applying to medical school four times and thinking it would never happen for me…. I am actually almost done. It doesn’t quite feel real.

I am very happy to report that the nightmares I was having back over the summer, before the ERAS residency application opened, were completely unfounded. I have more interviews than I know what to do with and the odds are in my favor that I will actually Match in March and will have my first job as a physician come next June/July. It’s been an incredible experience, if not time-consuming, alienating, and exhausting, but a necessary evil in the long run. I have met so many incredible people in the field of Pediatrics, and I feel so lucky to be going into the best specialty! (I may be a bit biased 😉 and I’m sure all of my colleagues in other fields feel the same way about their specialty.) I can’t wait to get started on my career but at the same time, I wish this year would slow down.

Over the past several months, my Instagram feed (@PagingDrAllie) has been flooded with snapshots of the interview trail. Because what else am I supposed to do when I’m going to new states, new cities, new places all by myself for nearly three months?

I purposefully do not share where I am interviewing. Not only for anonymity (which really, in having this blog, I’m probably not doing a very good job about that anyway), but I feel that sharing and bragging about those sorts of things is just in bad taste. A program that I am not thrilled with may be a friend’s top choice and they may not have received an interview invitation…. and I’m not the type of person who relishes in others’ despair. Below I’ve gathered some of my Instagram shots from my travels, with captions. I hope you enjoy a small taste of my life living out of a rental car!

One of the unexpected bonuses of traveling so much in November/December: all of the hotels and hospitals are wonderfully decorated for Christmas (and Hanakkuh, and others), which delights my soul in a particularly special way. There’s just something about twinkle lights that makes me deliciously happy.

 

This has been my view for so long that anything else almost seems foreign. After awhile, all of the hotels just blur together. There have been a couple that have really wow’d me in terms of the bedding. As a mom of a two-year-old, having a full night’s sleep, alone, without interruptions (or being kicked in the face) is a luxury beyond belief. Even so….. I do miss my own bed at home. Once I’m actually working, maybe we can investigate investing in a bigger bed that is as comfortable as this one was!

 

The bad thing about racing home, while driving alone, is that when you’re driving into a beautiful sunset, there is no one to share the experience with. Which means you pull over onto a safe pullout/shoulder and snap a few quick shots before getting back behind the wheel and trying to make up for those minutes.

I spent a week and a half in a new state to interview at several programs, thinking that would be best for my rental car and time. What I didn’t anticipate when I scheduled those interviews was how much I’d already be missing home and my kiddo, even that early in the interview season. So the Handsome came up with a brilliant scheme: instead of coming all the way home, I’d meet him and the Ladybug at the halfway point between home and the next interview to spend a weekend doing things she’d love like swimming in a heated pool and an excursion to the Children’s Museum there. So after my last interview of the week on a Friday, I raced to our rendezvous as quickly as I could to surprise the little one and when I came into the room….. she was already asleep. Figures.

Again, racing home (or to the next interview city) and I was alone with a great sunset.

This one, though, was on my way home for a weekend. This shot doesn’t do it justice, because it was seriously one of the most gorgeous displays I’ve ever seen.

This year, I’m taking a course that explores the marriage of Art with Medicine and Wellness. One of the stipulations of the course is that we make time to visit museums, aquariums, etc to help boost our wellness. The Georgia Aquarium is one of the very, very few aquariums to house Whale Sharks, and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to visit when I was in Atlanta. I really wish I would have had more time there!

One morning right before I left home for the majority of three weeks straight. Foggy yet golden, I couldn’t help but snap a shot to remind me of home.

Thank you notes are the bane of my existence. I was raised to express gratitude where it is due, so I’ve always been a fan of handwritten notes. I had no idea that I would be writing 4, 5, or 6 or more per program, though. Mentors have pressed upon me that for Pediatrics, thank you notes are pretty important, so I should make sure each one is personalized because all of them may wind up in my file, and if they are verbatim alike, it could be a mark against me so….. I spend a lot of time writing these things.

In one city, I came into town a bit early to catch up with an old friend from college at a local coffee shop before dinner with the residents. I wanted the chance to walk the city to get a good feel for it, and as I made my way to the coffee shot, I happened to notice the sky. This shot doesn’t really capture the cotton-candy sky, but I still liked the way it turned out anyway.

I left one program just in time to sit at a coffee shop in a different city for an hour or two before meeting the residents of another program for dinner, so I took that time to compose more thank you notes.

Niagara Falls at dusk! 🙂

Probably one of my favorite shots. It doesn’t quite look real, and this is #nofilter.

There was one interview that was really, really far away. Luckily, the Handsome could go with me and we made the executive decision to take the Ladybug with us and stop over at the halfway point, Niagara Falls. She LOVED it, and I am so glad that we weren’t deterred from bringing her with us. The first thing she said was “Whoa!” which was quickly followed by, “Mommy! BIG WATER!” All three of us marked off a couple new states and this little one got to add a new country to her passport as well!

I never knew the northeast was so pretty, even in late autumn! One thing I didn’t get to take a photo of: while driving through the mountains I saw where a semi took out the biggest black bear I’ve ever seen. So sad!

On the very first morning where I was supposed to be traveling to an interview, I went out to our deck for some meditation before beginning the long drive. It was so peaceful until the small flock of geese came by to interrupt me. Not a bad way to start out an interview season, I think.

I am almost done with my interview season. Some of the advice I got from last year’s graduating class were to wrap up the interview season before Christmas break, but that didn’t work out for me. I’ve been on a ton already, but I still have 5 more in January, and I am really excited for those programs. I’ve been keeping a running “rank list” and my top 5 are very clear in my mind already, programs that I loved to pieces. I’m hoping a few of my last interviews also make it into that category.

The Match 2013

3/15/2013

Match Day is held in the spring of each year, and is the big day when fourth-year medical students “match” into their intern year and residency programs. For the Harry Potter fans, it’s like a gigantic Sorting Hat for all graduating medical students. On Monday of this week, students were told if they Matched, but would not find out until noon on Friday where they would be going. This is, understandably, a huge deal. Residency is usually a minimum of 3 years long, but for some specialties, such as some surgery residencies, can be as long as 7 years–and if they want to go on to complete a fellowship, tack on another 3 years or more.

Last year was the first year I ever got to actually be present during a Match Day celebration. It is quite the party! Family, friends, smiles and cheers… it’s a wonderful ceremony at this particular school.

This week has been a rough one for me. I knew quite a few medical students that would graduate this year, as I would have graduated this year if I would have been pulled off the waitlist the first year I applied. I feel so incredibly old. In some alternate dimension, maybe I am graduating and going into my intern year. (I don’t really think all that theoretical physics mumbo jumbo has any merit, but still.) Instead, I’m just now going to be starting on the long journey to (hopefully!) having a wonderfully joyous Match Day, only four years from now. I do feel a bit bitter and jaded over the whole thing–when your dream is so close you can taste it, and it doesn’t happen… and today having it thrown in your face (granted, it was my choice to attend)… didn’t have me thinking very good thoughts about myself, I confess.

Some of my future classmates already make me feel so old. One of them was talking about getting ‘crunk’ the other day (crazy + drunk). I thought that term went out of style in the early 2000’s. I mean, seriously? I forget how young some of these people are sometimes. Never held a real job, fresh out of undergrad. Oh my. I wonder if I’ll be able to fit in and make friends. Guess we’ll see.

Anyway, back to the Match Day celebrations. There were lots of BIG smiles, lots of family, tears of joy, students literally squealing, crying, and jumping for joy when they opened their letters and announced to everyone where they’d be spending several years of their lives. A girl that I went to college with–a tiny little no-name school–matched into Forensic Pathology at Yale. Pretty impressive! (Granted, I know nothing about the competitiveness of Forensic Pathology.) There were a ton of people who matched into pediatrics or combined pediatrics programs; I was pretty surprised there were so many! Overall, it was a really beautiful day. The energy in the room was palpable, and I couldn’t help being all smiles myself. It’s no secret that medical school is a long, hard four years that can put strain on the students and their family and friends; seeing the end result, and seeing everyone so incredibly happy over those results, really said a lot to me. There is a light at the end of the tunnel.

One thing that encouraged me was seeing so many babies at Match Day; kids under two years old that belonged to the med students. I doubt that we’ll wait til I’m out of medical school to start our family, and I’ve been pretty nervous wondering when in the long four years would be a “good” time to start trying. Seeing so many little ones, some only a couple weeks old, is making me feel less anxious about that part of life during medical school.

It really was a truly good day, and I’m glad I had the opportunity to be present for another Match Day, especially when I knew so many people who got good news. For now though, I’m closer to making my final decision about which school to attend, and making plans on when to see family in friends before the move, checking into everything I’ll need to do before then, like setting up a new bank account, letting our apartment management know that we’ll be moving. It’s getting closer to the beginning of my four years of this particular type of stress and strain, but I hope I get to keep this image in my mind when days are tough: a joyous Match Day.