It’s Match Day. Standing with my medical school class in the lobby of our medical education center, there is a palpable energy. It had been a long journey. After reluctantly leaving CA for NY I had finally completed four grueling years. The entire time I was laser focused on doing well enough to make it back to California. The four years came and went in a flash, and without hesitation, I will say that the last two years had been some of the most rewarding and fun years of my life. Working hard in the hospital and playing even harder in the city had made for an interesting work life balance.
So here I am standing in the lobby of my medical school waiting to be handed a piece of paper that will bind me to a residency program. I had done well enough in school, well enough on my boards, did some research, did well enough on my interviews, and had a stacked rank list of the best ER programs in the country. During the interview season, I received an interview offer letter from a program in Denver. How the hell did I get this? This is one of the original ED programs. There is no way they should have wanted to interview me. Did they mistake me for some other Indian guy? Whatever. I booked the interview, go there, and I was amazed at how awesome the program is.
So back to the lobby. The dean starts speaking: “The class of 2009 did spectacularly this year matching at top residency programs across the country.” He specifically mentions how three people had matched at the California program I was expecting to match to. My heart starts pounding even faster. I am so excited. They continue to spout off some other statistics and finally at noon they say that we can go to a table to pick up our match letters.
All around me people are opening envelopes. People are starting to cheer as they receive news that they are going to his/her top choice. Off in the corner, I see one of my classmates crying. She must not have matched where she wanted to. This is so weird; there is such a mix of emotions from complete elation to utter dejection.
I’m handed my letter. The first line reads congratulations …blah blah blah. My heart is pounding, and I scan the next line. Wait a minute that didn’t register. The state reads CO. My eyes must be playing a trick on me. I keep reading CO expecting it to be CA. CO … CO, not CA … is there a typo? Did they mean to write CA instead of CO? I’m so confused. Then it starts to register and settle. This is so weird. I can’t believe it; I somehow matched to Denver.
And just like that my fate is sealed. I am to shipped off to Denver. No ifs ands or buts. I am to pack up my New York life and move to Denver. Even if I wanted to move back to California, that is no longer an option. At this point, I must go straight to Colorado. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. Is this how NFL football prospects feel on draft day?
Is this normal? Is it normal that people who have invested so much time and have so much education are forced to move in what seems like such a random act? What if I had a family and kids? What kind of conversation would I be having with them? “Sorry dear … So it turns out we have to move away from family and friends to a place where we know no one because the computer matched me there.”
You would think that going through four years of undergraduate education and four years of medical school would put you in a position that you could essentially pick where you want to be. But I start to realize that there is one more hoop to jump through.
My heart skips. I am so confused. So excited to be going to one of the best programs but so conflicted that I won’t be in California. I’m approached by other EM bound residents: “Holy crap how did you match there?” We head outside to celebrate. Champagne bottles are popping off. And after a short while, we get on a party bus ready to paint NYC red with our recent successes and for my good news.
Zahir Basrai is an emergency physician who blogs at the Physician Grind.
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