Monday, March 16, 2009

My take on "Match Day"

Like Fizzy, I received a copy of the new book Match Day by Brian Eule to review. I had heard it followed three women from Match Day through their first year of internship and was immediately interested. I mean, this was my story, too, right? On Mothers in Medicine we share, all the time, our unique stories about being women, mothers in our demanding profession. This is our story. So, I was eager to see how this translated to book form.

I had mixed feelings about the book.

What I thought the book did well was to de-mystify the process that is The Match, giving historical context, even going so far as introducing readers to the mastermind of the computer algorithm behind it. I also thought the book captured the artificial relationship deadline/pressures fairly well of the Match and particularly liked the relaying of Rakhi and Scott's down-to-the-deadline struggle of where to rank UCLA. This was a very real moment to me, full of the tensions of submitting a rank list when partners need to be considered.

I have to admit, though, that as a woman in medicine who has gone through match day and internship, I kept feeling like the voice telling the stories was an outsider; someone catching glimpses of moments but not possessing the full understanding of what it is really like. Salient moments that defined the challenges of being a woman going through these events weren't explored. Stephanie's experience as a female surgical intern would have been vastly different at a program where she was the only woman in a class of men, which is more often the case. The struggle of being "strong", letting your emotions show (nearly every woman resident has cried - dealing with those feelings), even different dynamics with other staff...all very personal, defining parts of our journey were missing.

I guess I felt that it could have been more authentic.

Overall, I was a bit unsure what the book was trying to do besides exposing the mystery behind Match Day and the pressures this can create for couples. I didn't feel it addressed women in medicine and today's challenges with full depth, but I got the sense that this was one of its goals. Still, I think the book could be very interesting to those who haven't gone through this and bringing some of these issues to light.

These were my questions for the author and his responses:

What surprised you the most while writing the book?

What probably surprised me most was how i never lost interest in the
subject. I had a friend once say that you know you have a book topic
when you have so much to write and say about a topic that a magazine
article will not do it for you. That was the case for me with this-- I
kept finding more interesting aspects to the story.

When did you decide you were going to write this?

A little less than a year before the Match Day that I describe in the
book. It was around that time that I was discovering this strange
ritual and realized so much of the world knew so little about this
process and moment that affects the whole country.

How did your relationships with [the three women you write about] change as a result of writing the book?

Well, Stephanie and I are still together, so so far so good. I still
keep in touch with the other people in the book.

How do you think your personal connections to all of the women you wrote about impacted your storytelling? Your objectivity?

This is a great question. In journalism, so often, we keep our
distance from our subjects. But actually, I found that I was so
passionate about these people and their lives, that it made for
stronger writing. I was also very lucky that none of the characters in
the book ever tried to influence what I wrote about, so I never felt
like this did anything but make me more passionate about the story.

*****
Readers can get the chance to score a copy of Match Day on Wednesday, our Topic Day on Match Day. Mothers in Medicine received two free copies of this book for the purposes of review, but we are not not otherwise getting compensated for these reviews, nor are we obligated to provide a positive review.

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