Editor's note: This story first appeared as a thread on Twitter during Match Week 2018. It is reprinted with the permission of the author.
There’s been a lot of excitement this week surrounding the Match. There’s also been some disappointment.
In the spirit of support, transparency, resilience, and #DocsWhoAlmostQuit, a thread about my own Match experience.
If careers could be soulmates, it’s no secret that Emergency Medicine is mine. It was a love-at-first-sight meeting – that saying of “You’ll know right away” held true for me. But she and I have a twisted fairy tale of a story.
I went to a foreign medical school – by choice, not chance. As it turns out, that made my Match process more difficult.
After a 4th year filled with courting many different emergency departments, I had plenty of interviews, plenty of promises, and plenty of places to rank. I was excited about a future in EM. But I followed some sage advice and ranked some family medicine programs as well.
And on Match Day, when I opened that email, instead of joy I felt anguish.
The love of my life had chosen someone else.
I hadn’t matched my top choice. Or my second choice. Or even my third.
I hadn’t matched Emergency Medicine at all.
An Unexpected Path
When I matched into my second-choice specialty, I cried. I felt defeated. The Match told me “You won’t be an Emergency physician” and I believed that.
So, feeling a bit like I was entering an arranged marriage, I started residency in Family Medicine. And she was kind and good and safe, but our relationship left me feeling like something was missing. I was missing the fire and spark I had felt with Emergency Medicine.
But as time passed, I began to notice small things about Family Medicine that tugged at my heart. I chased deliveries and I loved being the OR for C-sections. I looked forward to Procedure Clinic. And I loved my patients dearly.
Eventually, I got tired of carrying the burden of “Not Good Enough” around and decided to put it down. The name I once cried over on my Match list became a home and my colleagues and my patients became a family I was invested in.
I realized that just because someone told me “NO” once, it didn’t mean I had to accept that as my life’s fate. If Emergency Medicine and I were soulmates – if we were meant to be – then there would be another way.
So, I started looking for it.
My colleagues said, “I don’t know how you could like it in the total chaos of the Emergency Department; it makes me feel anxious.” But to me, the calm of the clinic made me feel internally chaotic. The rush of the ED was soothing. It felt like home.
I sought out colleagues who knew EM and who wanted to share what they knew about her. I absorbed everything they told me. I started to moonlight – and as EM and I dated, I fell more and more in love.
And then, I learned about a fellowship and it finally seemed that EM and I might be able to be together. I said, “It’s a long shot.” Then I applied.
And I again cried tears when I got the notification of acceptance – but this time it was tears of happiness.
I threw myself into everything that EM had to offer, and for the first time in my medical life, I felt – and still feel – like this is where I was always supposed to be.
I don’t regret the path I took – I just wish I hadn’t had to bushwhack my way through a jungle to find it.
Coming Full Circle
To those of you out there who matched into your first-choice specialty, I couldn’t be happier for you – there’s no feeling in the world like it. But to those of you who didn’t – it’s not the end of your path.
There’s more than one way to reach a destination – and sometimes, being forced to take that road less traveled is much more of an opportunity for growth in the long run.
The medical profession will eat you alive if you let it. It will beat you down and tell you “NO!” a thousand times before you get to hear a “Yes.” It constantly asks you how bad you really want to be here. Ask yourself the same thing.
If you’re struggling and don’t know where to turn next, reach out for guidance. Ask someone in the place you want to be how they got there. They might have some golden words of wisdom to share.
And beyond everything else, remember that the outcome of the Match IN NO WAY devalues the hard work you have put in up to this point.
Thanks for letting me share and be vulnerable with you all. If anyone is having a hard time and wants to reach out, I’m here.