Thursday, March 17, 2011

Beyond Match Day

I can distinctly recall many details from my own Match Day, now eight years ago.

I remember sitting in the big auditorium at Ohio State under a restless buzz of noise.  Most students had spouses, family, and close friends with them; my parents made the trip to be with me.  They brought me a bouquet of flowers, and I still remember the crinkly cellophane creasing under my sweaty palms.

I remember walking up to the edge of the stage with my peers and being herded alphabetically.  I headed to the middle of the rows of boxes and was handed a crisp, ivory envelope with a sticker that had my name on it.  We all marched back to our seats and waited the interminable minutes for the clock to strike noon, for the announcement stating we could legally open our envelopes.

I remember sliding my finger under the envelope flap with deliberate slowness.  Everything would change after I opened it; I had been a student my whole life, but a new label was about to define the rest of my life.  Three months later, I would graduate from medical school and take my shiny new MD off to this place listed in simple typeface on that perfectly creased slip of paper.

I thought I knew what was to come.  I had worked with a lot of residents and attendings in medical school, had laughed with and wept for many patients.  In these ways, medical school had prepared me well for the demands of residency.  But nothing had prepared me for the crushing responsibility of being the one signing the orders, giving the diagnoses, consoling the bereaved left behind by my failures.

The Singing Pen has been absent for nearly two weeks now while I've been inundated by clinical work.  On the worst day during that time, I rounded on 21 inpatients with the residents before going to the office for a full schedule that included calling a mental health crisis team for a patient having a psychotic break.  I finally drifted into a restless sleep that night thinking about my application essay for residency.  I couldn't concretely conceptualize, back then, just exactly what all of that "dedication" and "hard work" was going to entail.  And yet, even in the most grueling moments, those old noble ideals still call to me; eight years later, I still love what I do.

4th years, may you all be able to say the same come March 2019.

1 comment:

  1. Flashing back to Match Day at Ohio State in 1976, a mere 35 years ago, times haven't changed a lot. It seemed a bit more private and less formal. We were chagrined to learn of those who were called in to find they had not matched. We got the envelopes, opened them, shared our fate with friends in our class and were off to the Varsity Club for further sharing and partying.
    Match Day is a meaningful tradition to celebrate another career milestone. For many of us, 35 years later, there is only one milestone left in the medical career. No envelope needed for that one.