It takes a certain type of person to persevere through the challenges of medical school. If you’re well into the application process, you’ve already gotten a taste of what’s ahead. It might make you question whether your hard work will pay off in the end—you wouldn’t be the first to do so.
The good news? Plenty of successful physicians once felt the same way. Many of them found matching for residency made all the late nights studying and occasionally missing social events worth it.
To help give you a little inspiration, we’re highlighting five doctors’ med school Match Day stories. They all remember their experiences vividly. No matter what your specific goals are, you’re bound to relate to at least one of these physicians.
5 med school match day stories to inspire you
While most medical students obtain their postgraduate positions through the Main Residency Match from the National Resident Matching Program (NRMP), some find a different path. But these stories show the sense of accomplishment is high regardless of your exact process.
1. Defying doubters by securing a competitive position
Choosing to pursue ophthalmology is intimidating both because the match process is different than for most other specialties and because it’s incredibly competitive. But that didn’t stop St. George’s University (SGU) graduate Dr. Charlotte Marous. Now an ophthalmology resident physician at SUNY Downstate Medical Center, aiming high clearly worked out for her.
"It’s busy and the learning curve is steep, but I’m enjoying it."
“It’s busy and the learning curve is steep, but I’m enjoying it,” she says of her current position. Dr. Marous also adds that she likes getting exposure to so many types of clinical practice and a wide variety of cases.
Because ophthalmology positions are offered through the SF Match, the timeline is different for these students. They learn their results months before students who get placed through the Main Residency Match. But the anxious feeling of awaiting your results is still the same.
“Leading up to that day, I could barely sleep,” Dr. Marous reflects. “I felt all the nerves that every other applicant to residency feels—it was just a few months earlier.”
Soon after receiving an email notification that she’d matched, Dr. Marous’s program director reached out and told her to take a moment to call family and friends. Then the festivities began.
“I celebrated by first running across the Manhattan Bridge—I had to get out all of my pent-up energy and excitement—and then went out for dinner and drinks with close friends in the city to celebrate,” Dr. Marous recalls.
"I celebrated by first running across the Manhattan Bridge."
The feeling hasn’t exactly faded yet either. Dr. Marous emphasizes that medical school is incredibly difficult. And it’s not lost on her that she’s fortunate to be where she is.
“Ultimately it is very rewarding, always stimulating, constantly challenging, and extremely fulfilling,” Dr. Marous offers. “I still have a ways to go before I reach my end goal, but I’m proud of what I have achieved and excited to see what is to come.”
2. Excitedly starting to plan for the future
It’s nerve-racking to realize the fate of your future depends on if—and where—you match for residency. Dr. Edna Ma, anesthesiologist at 90210 Surgery Medical Center, can tell you from personal experience.
She was engaged to her eventual husband when it came time to learn where residency would take her. Dr. Ma knew her results would have a huge impact on where they would establish their lives.
“You feel you can’t plan your life until after Match Day,” she explains. “Where will you be? Will you even match? Everything is on pause until the results are released.”
"You feel you can’t plan your life until after Match Day."
It was a huge relief when Dr. Ma found out she secured a residency spot at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), which was her top choice. There was one unexpected curve ball, though. She got her fourth pick for her preliminary year. This meant she would be spending a year in Denver, Colorado.
“I just remember thinking I wouldn’t match into my top pick, but when I did, I was shocked and very happy,” Dr. Ma reflects. “Even though I got my fourth pick for internship, I knew I would survive that one year of hard work.”
The rest of medical school went by very smoothly for Dr. Ma. She felt satisfied knowing she could start her career and life in Los Angeles. That hasn’t changed.
“I love my specialty and the flexibility it affords,” Dr. Ma enthuses. “I feel I have finally figured out the elusive work-life balance.”
3. Sharing the joy with family and friends
There’s an extra layer of pressure when you’re pursuing a competitive specialty. This explains why Dr. Clay Dorenkamp, an orthopaedic surgery resident physician, was so nervous leading up to the day he discovered his residency results.
“It is extremely difficult if you don’t match into a competitive specialty to try again next year,” he explains.
"It is extremely difficult if you don’t match into a competitive specialty to try again next year."
It probably comes as no surprise, then, that Dr. Dorenkamp was beyond excited to find he was headed to Michigan State University to complete his orthopaedic surgery training. Once he received the email, Dr. Dorenkamp called his parents and started posting his news on social media. He made some other important calls as well.
“One of my mentors said—when I called him at 6 am—that it was a fantastic alarm clock for him that day,” Dr. Dorenkamp reflects. “A lot of people invest their time, emotions, and support into your success in medical school. And they are legitimately happy to hear about your success.”
There was also a certain sense of relief that traveling for all those residency interviews had paid off. Dr. Dorenkamp says it can be both expensive and exhausting. If you’re anything like him, securing a residency will allow you a rare stretch of time to relax a bit.
“Embrace the freedom and recharge,” he suggests. “Residency will be difficult and bring its own unique challenges.”
If it seems like the process of becoming a doctor is somewhat of a roller-coaster ride, that’s because it is. Only those who are completely invested in practicing medicine are cut out for the journey. For those individuals, Dr. Dorenkamp thinks the good outweighs the bad.
“The best is yet to come.”
“Keep going,” he enthuses. “The best is yet to come.”
4. Recognizing all the effort was worth it
Dr. Anthony Agrios, OB/GYN at All About Women Obstetrics & Gynecology, was cautiously optimistic prior to discovering his residency future. While he felt somewhat confident, he also acknowledges getting to that point was both costly and time-consuming. It meant having to shuffle priorities for a while.
“This took away from time I could have been spending on medicine,” Dr. Agrios explains.
Because of the sacrifices and the knowledge some don’t manage to obtain a residency position, Dr. Agrios took comfort in discovering he had matched into his top-choice program at the University of Florida. The news was announced at a breakfast event.
“It is always a big deal,” Dr. Agrios reflects. “The first thing I did was hug my wife, who was also nervous about where we might be living.”
“The first thing I did was hug my wife, who was also nervous about where we might be living.”
Looking back on the experience, Dr. Agrios knows his passion for the job saw him through. Pursuing a career in medicine simply won’t be fulfilling if you’re not in it for the right reasons.
“Medicine is a calling,” he says. “I love my job, so the process was worth it to me.”
5. Realizing a lifelong dream
Securing a residency was a little bit different for SGU graduate Dr. Linda Girgis. The family physician and editor in chief of Physician’s Weekly was actually offered a position a few weeks after interviewing at Sacred Heart Hospital, where she wanted to complete her training. She signed a contract with the program outside of the Match, so that meant she knew her future before most of her classmates did.
“The feeling of relief was profound,” Dr. Girgis reflects. “When I received the contract in the mail, I knew my search was over and I could relax.”
It was also somewhat emotional since she’d be returning to her home state. And more than anything, receiving an offer meant Dr. Girgis would soon have the career she’d always dreamed she would.
“I’d wanted to be a doctor since I was a little girl,” she explains.
While Dr. Girgis was happy to be certain of her future, there wasn’t much time to bask in the accomplishment at the time.
“I was still in medical school and was on an intensive clinical rotation,” she says. “I saved the celebration for graduation day.” Dr. Girgis also mentions she was keenly aware that she’d soon be thrown into the real world of practicing medicine, which was a bit scary.
“I saved the celebration for graduation day.”
Now that she’s on the other side of residency training, Dr. Girgis truly enjoys her career. Working closely with patients has proven rewarding.
“It is about the difference we make in the health and lives of others,” she offers. “No one else can do what we can.”
Start writing your success story
Medical school will be trying, exhausting, and even frustrating at times. But if you’re anything like these physicians, obtaining a residency will make all of the effort worth it. Perhaps the next generation of MDs will look to your med school Match Day success for inspiration one day.
If residency is already on your mind, it might interest you to know that St. George’s University has an outstanding track record for postgraduate training placement. The program even has an Office of Career Guidance and Student Development to help steer you down the right path. You can learn even more about how SGU sets students on the right path by taking a look at our infographic “Is SGU Medical School Worth It? 10 Facts to Help You Decide.”
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