Match Day. It was a day that I viewed with trepidation (Will I go where I want to go?), anticipation (Where will the next chapter of my life begin?), and exhilaration (I would finally be done with medical school!) Match Day was a day that, before you entered medical school, you had no idea even existed. I hate to borrow the comparison to sororities once again, but Match Day does work almost exactly like sorority rush. Your senior year of medical school, you interview at many different programs, searching for (what you think is) your ideal fit for a training program. You have to make decisions about community programs vs. university based programs. Small programs vs. larger programs. City or rural? Academics focused or procedure focused? I'm oversimplifying for the sake of keeping the post a reasonable length, but you get the picture. Then, at the end of the interview season, you sit down and rank, first to last the programs in which you would like to train. The residency programs do the same, ranking applicants from most wanted to least wanted, and yes, they do have meetings where they put your picture up and talk about your pros and cons...just like rush. Then, all of the information from both the students and programs is plugged into some kind of nebulous computer database matrix-type-thing, where the magical "match" actually happens...each student to each program, according to mutual rankings. Thankfully, you are somewhat unaware of the gory details of the process when you are interviewing. All you know is that the decisions that you make when writing your match list will profoundly affect the rest of your professional life. No pressure.
For me, I was fortunate in the fact that I didn't have to worry about a couple's match (trying to match to the same place as your spouse or significant other). Mr. Whoo was delightfully mobile with respect to his professional life, so we didn't have the constraints of specific places that we just *had* to be. We picked a general area of the country in which we knew we would be happy, and concentrated on applying to the programs in that general area. I was also fortunate that I wasn't trying to match into a super competitive residency like dermatology or radiology (or, the "lifestyle specialties," as they are called), and I really had no interest in the rigorous academic programs. I was more concerned with learning how to be a general community Ob/Gyn, could not care less about research or academic prestige. For me, I primarily searched for community based, procedure heavy programs in a large region of the country. I looked at how the attendings and the residents interacted with one another, and I was really interested in finding a program where the residents actually seemed to *like* one another. As far as match criteria are concerned, mine were quite modest. I ranked 8 programs, 2 of which I loved enough to place them interchangeably in rank order.
Match Day itself was rather overwhelming. There was lots of pomp and circumstance, and even more nerves and jitters. There was a big ceremony outside, then we all went into the main lecture hall (where we spent the whole of our first two years as students, sort of poignant). It was there that we received the envelopes which held the direction for (did I mention?) our entire professional lives. To add extra fun, each of us was called individually up to the front of the entire room, filled with friends, students, and families to open our envelope in front of *everybody* to read aloud the program and specialty to which we had matched. The only prior knowledge that you had going up to this point was whether or not you *had* matched, so the reactions ranged from ecstatic, to barely concealed bitter disappointment. It was a little awful and a lot wonderful. On the whole, my class matched well, so many of us were rejoicing together. When it came my time to grab my envelope, I could barely squawk out the words on the paper, I was so overcome. I vaguely remember cheers and applause as I blindly made my way back to my seat. I had matched into my first choice...my path, once shrouded in mystery and doubt, was suddenly, sunnily clear.
After our class had opened the last envelope, there was a cake and punch reception (to which we brought flasks to generously spike the punch). We shared happy and sad tears, and there was a sense of relief that it was all *over,* when, in fact, it was just beginning. I found out that two other classmates had matched into residencies at the same place in which I did. This was kind of amazing, since we were coming from a big, academic med school in a location nearly a full day's drive from the smaller, community-ish program to which we all matched. It was comforting to know that there would be a couple of familiar faces in that new, unfamiliar territory. That night we all hit the town together as a class, and acted decidedly not like budding young medical professionals, but like the kids that we actually still were. For all the toil, sacrifice and tears that we had endured thus far, with even more looming on the horizon, all was right with the world on the day that we found our match.