An Unprecedented Match, Part 2

Jessica André, MSII - Howard University College of Medicine
EMRA MSC Mid-Atlantic Regional Representative, 2021-2022

Michelle Abrokwa, MSIV - New York Medical College
EMRA MSC NE1 Regional Representative, 2021-2022

Alexa Van Besien, MSIII - University of Maryland School of Medicine
EMRA MSC NE Coordinator, 2021-2022

Alexander Gallaer, MSIV - University of Connecticut School of Medicine
EMRA MSC NE2 Regional Representative, 2021-2022


What can we say about our EMRA Medical Student Council leadership that has not already been said about TikTok? Funny, creative, and educational, to name just a few similarities. Not only did Jazmyn Shaw and Alex Cook lead the MSC and their peers through a pandemic providing both EM application preparedness and moral support, but they also applied to and were accepted into residencies themselves whilst raising and/or preparing for a growing family. Needless to say, the MSC will have large shoes to fill going forward and both Jazymn and Alex will be greatly missed. Our outgoing leadership was kind enough to leave us with some reflections on this past year and outlooks for their future.

What advice would you give to yourself at this time last year?

Jazmyn:  This time last year I would have told myself to remain flexible and adaptable. Especially in the era of COVID, things are always changing. As future emergency medicine physicians, we thrive in the unknown. So many things feel up in the air these days. We can’t always have concrete answers, and that’s okay. Everything really does end up working out in the end. 

Alex: Applications and interview season is a challenging process! Applications are stressful, and interviews are logistically taxing. Find time to build in scheduled exercise, good food, and time with loved ones to unwind!

Did you have any concerns coming into the application cycle, especially given the changes due to COVID?

Jazmyn: I think my biggest concern coming into the cycle was how only having 1 SLOE would affect the interview season for myself and my peers. I think EMRA did a good job of collaborating with other organizations and finding a way to ensure that the application cycle was as equitable as it could be. Obviously, hindsight is 20/20 and we learned a lot from the last cycle, and hopefully will be able to improve upon it this year. 

Alex: I didn't have any concerns. I think the Zoom interviews were excellent and hope that programs consider making Zoom an option. It helps break down barriers for disadvantaged students who otherwise could not physically travel to interviews.

Did COVID impact your preparation at all (eg study plans, exam cancellations, etc)

Jazmyn: COVID definitely impacted my study plans. I was scheduled to take Step 2 in June. After several cancellations, I ended up not sitting for it until September, but it worked out fine and is one example of just being adaptable. 

Alex: COVID was disruptive to my final blocks in my third year. I took some time off to study for Step 2 when things first happened and then did some distance electives. It all worked out in the end! 

What is the biggest positive that you took out of the previous year?

Jazmyn: I think the biggest positive I’ve taken from last year was that COVID forced me to slow down and really be present in the moment. It is so easy in medical school to be on the go all the time and get caught up in the chaos that is medical education. When we were relieved of clinical duties for several months and the country was shut down, I really had no choice but to slow down and spend time with my family and I am really really thankful for that. 

Alex: So many positives from COVID! Zoom is a fantastic tool to help folks interview and learn about programs that they may not have been able to travel to otherwise. EMRA’s Virtual Residency Fair was incredible and a fantastic way to guide applications and learn more about programs. Also, telemedicine can be beneficial for the disadvantaged, rural, or patients who are just busy. I'm glad I was able to train in telemedicine due to the pandemic.

Did the past year make you question (or reaffirm) your decision to pursue EM and why?

Jazmyn: I think the chaos of the last year really just affirmed my love for emergency medicine. The EM community was so supportive and truly cared about the wellbeing of students during this time and it truly made me feel like I had found my people and my specialty.

Alex: Great question! I'm not sure I changed much on EM. It's such a vital specialty and indeed the tip of the spear. Given the pandemic and focus on EM providers and staff's efforts, it is a reminder of how humbling it is to have the privilege of serving in the role of an EM doctor. 

Did you rank programs differently based on the virtual interview experience? If so, what factors made you do so?

Jazmyn: I can’t say the virtual experience made me rank programs differently. I was so impressed by the interview days of all the programs I interviewed at, even if they were virtual. I really based my rank list on the quality of training. Having a family, it was impractical of me to chase dream destinations. I focused more on what programs were going to make me the most well-rounded, clinically excellent, physician I could be. 

Alex: Absolutely! I felt like I could judge the vibe of a program over Zoom and dinner calls pretty well. That's incredibly important to me. I wouldn't want to continue training at a place that wasn't supportive and team-centric. I primarily based my rank list on these impressions. 

Would you recommend having virtual interviews as an option for future application cycles? Why or why not?

Jazmyn: I do think virtual interviews helped to lessen the gap between students as financial barriers have had a significant implication on where students could interview in the past. I would actually be thrilled to see them stay around as they allowed myself and others to interview at places we may not have been able to in the past due to financial barriers. I do think it’s going to be important for the EM community to really think this out well as hybrid options have the potential to incorporate a significant amount of bias with some interviewing in person and some virtually.

Alex: Absolutely! I would go so far as to suggest they should be the only option. Keeping everything virtual with optional in-person tours would be an ideal setup. It's tremendously financially straining to travel to 12 or more interviews and prohibitive for many. Virtual interviews allow people to apply to areas they might not have been able to go to otherwise!


What were some unexpected obstacles or challenges during the virtual interview season? (Camera lighting, internet problems, etc)

Jazmyn: I think the biggest obstacle I had was internet connection at times. I did all of my interviews at my school because I felt the connection was more stable, but at times I would randomly lose connection. It really turned out to not be a big deal and every program was very understanding. 

Alex: I live out in the woods a bit, and our best internet option is DSL. It makes zoom nerve-wracking at times. I still think Zoom is great for interviews! And in a typical year, I would have been able to find a quiet place on campus to borrow some wifi.

Do you feel being a part of EMRA gave you an advantage in preparing for interviews/MATCH? If so, how?

Jazmyn: EMRA 100% gave me an advantage and is the reason I was prepared for interview season. I utilized the mock interview session which was super helpful and allowed me to prepare for virtual interviews ahead of time. I also found the student advising guide and EMRA match very helpful. There were so many resources put out by EMRA last year regarding the application and interview season and they were all so helpful. 

Alex: Absolutely! EMRA provided information, connections, and resources, which undoubtedly improved my candidacy. There is no better organization for medical students heading into emergency medicine.

Where did you match? What are you looking forward to the most? How will you celebrate?

Jazmyn: I matched at my #1 choice, the University of Cincinnati! I am so excited to train here! It is the first EM residency program ever, and just a badass program. I'm looking forward to being surrounded by people who are passionate about emergency medicine and willing to work hard to become the best EM physicians we can be. The thing I loved most about the program in Cincinnati was that they really stood out to me as a program that truly cared about every aspect of your training. From their leadership curriculum to developing us as public speakers, to making us clinical badasses, it truly felt like the most well-rounded program that would make me an amazing clinician. Of course, I can’t forget to mention the breadth of clinical experiences from an academic center with a county feel, flying with Air Care (AMAZING), a pediatric community site with longitudinal community experience across 4 years, and pediatric emergency medicine training at a top 3 children’s hospital. It really doesn't get much better than that.  

Alex: I matched at Duke University!! Duke was my top choice given the exceptional faculty, various training sites, and incredible people! The Duke family has been kind and inviting throughout the entire process.

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