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Today is the deadline for certifying rank lists. This blog is no stranger to talk of rank lists and matching, and I’m about ready for it to end. I talked about my list starting to emerge here, and if you need a refresher on how the whole match process works, check here. If you care to, you can also take a look back at my post about when my original med school class matched and graduated, not-so-optimistically titled “Moving on when everyone else is moving out.” I certified my rank list a couple of weeks ago, sitting with a coffee shop with Michelle, another fabulous MSTP, who helped me proof my list to make sure I wasn’t accidentally ranking a program where I didn’t interview, etc. A few of the highlights of this waiting game:

  • I reviewed my list again today to make sure it was right. The application program (ERAS) and the ranking program (NRMP) don’t use the same program codes – that would be too easy – so I double checked and cross-referenced the codes when I made my list, and checked them for a third time today. I live in fear that I’ve accidentally left my favorite program off the list.
  • Somehow this deadline is only the beginning of the waiting. Even though I feel like I’ve been waiting since December 14, when I finished my interviews, it will take the matching algorithm almost another month to grind through my list, and those of all of the other wishful applicants, and assign me a spot. March 15 feels so far away.
  • I’m fairly certain that no matter where on my list of twelve I match, I will be happy and get great training. I think I’ll be taking the advice of one sage AMSA friend, and in the twelve days leading up to Match Day I’ll go in alphabetical order through my programs and share with you all of the things I love about each of them. We’ll call it the Twelve Days of Matchmas. I haven’t decided whether I want a partridge or not.

Burn out

Between October 4 and December 14 I did fourteen residency interviews, although most of them were concentrated between October 27 and December 14, so all told I did an average of two interviews a week for seven weeks. I was home for 17 days during that period, spread out over the interview season.

Things that were wonderful about the interview trail:

  • Catching up with friends in distant cities
  • Enjoying cuisines that aren’t available in Ann Arbor
  • Meeting so many delightful future colleagues/potential co-residents

Things that were terrible about the interview trail:

  • Sleeping on floors, air mattresses, couches, and guest beds; thank you to everyone who hosted me, but the cumulative effect was rough
  • Air travel
  • Leaving Walter with every friend and relative I have in the greater Ann Arbor/Detroit area

I’m glad I did it, but I’m really glad I’m done. Now the excitement of making a rank list and holding my breath until March 15 when I find out where I’ll be heading for the next four years. Stay tuned!

Emergence of a rank list?

At the beginning of the interview process, I had some sense of which programs would be at the top of my rank list*. I also had some ideas about which would be at the bottom. I’d set up a list for myself of programs likely to be in the top 5-6, and programs likely to be in the bottom 5-6, but the middle of the list was a bit of a mystery. Now that I’m through nine of my fifteen interviews, I’m getting a better sense of what I’m looking for in a program, although it’s still difficult to make concrete pre-interview predictions. Some things I have learned:

  • As promised by all of the residents and faculty I’ve talked to, interacting with current residents is really important. Not only do they have a completely unique, insider perspective on the programs, but their personalities and preferences seem to be the best indicators available of what kinds of applicants match at particular programs, and what sorts of people do well there.
  • I’m really glad I’m not couples matching. Applicants who have a significant other (or anyone they want to match with, really, as there is no requirement that you be in any particular kind of relationship) who is also applying to residency this year can choose to link their match lists with that person’s. The match algorithm then processes the two lists together so that if Applicant A only wanted to be at Program X if Applicant B were at Program Y, and Program Y isn’t an option for that applicant, then the algorithm moves on and looks for a better match. This means that although OB/GYN isn’t the most competitive specialty, those applicants who are couples matching with someone in a crazily competitive specialty have to apply and interview to many more programs. The travel is already wearing on me, and I can’t imagine having to do more than I already am.
  • The fit and feel of a program are much more obvious after an interview day than I’d expected. I know it sounds dubious, but you really can get a good sense of a program after an informal mixer/dinner with the residents and then an interview day. There are, I’m sure, lots of things that can’t come out in that amount of time, or that are intentionally hidden away during interview days, but the personality of a program really does come out quite clearly in that brief interaction.

I’ve definitely not finalized my list at this point, as there are still lots of interviews to come, but it’s exciting to feel like I’m getting closer.

*For those of you confused about what a “rank list” is, I refer you to a post from May that describes a bit of the match process.

“I have always depended on the kindness of strangers”

While I’m optimistic that the end of my interview trail will not parallel the end of Blanche from Streetcar Named Desire, I nonetheless feel that, at least right now, I am wholly dependent on the kindness of friends, family, and even some strangers. I’m writing this post from dearest Ruti’s living room, having stayed with my sister last night and a gracious UM alum the night before*. In Boston I stayed with a med school classmate, and an old friend in Seattle. I’ve got friends lined up for many of the rest of my interviews as well, and I feel incredibly grateful at their willingness to pull out their air mattresses, unfold their couches, and make up their guest rooms for me. I’ll be working to balance my karmic withdrawals by hosting some applicants interviewing at UM back in Ann Arbor. I can’t say thank-you enough to all of these folks who have made the first half of the interview trail that much more hospitable. Don’t hesitate to call if you find yourselves in Ann Arbor. Thanks!

*The Office of Alumni Relations runs an impressive hosting program that connects interviewing fourth years with UMMS alumni across the country. I’ve only used it once so far, but was thrilled with it. Yay for having a gigantic alumni network!

And the interview season marches on…

I’d had a bit of a break since my first residency interview, but this weekend I was on the road again for interview number two. This really marks the beginning of the craziness that will be my interview season. Looking at my calendar for November, there are a total of about 10 days (including the week of Thanksgiving) when I’m not traveling somewhere. Here is how Walter feels about the prospect of my being away so much:

I’ll note that these photos were taken on two different occasions. The dog has taken to smooshing his face into small spaces that look ridiculous. And adorable.

Despite having similar feelings about so many flights, rental cars, trains, and hotels, I’m pretty excited. [For the record, I’m not sharing here the full list of places I’ll be interviewing, out of courtesy for the match process and my friends and colleagues, so if you know them, please don’t share!]

The following are some highlights from my trip this weekend:

  • I ended up in the airport Friday waiting for a rebooked flight for about four hours after my original flight was delayed enough to miss my connection and thus cause me to miss my interview dinner. [Insert diatribe about what air travel has become.] But I was calm.
  • I ate the following (delicious?) airport food while waiting: a hummus and pretzel cup, a California roll, a Snickers bar. Only the last item really helped my mood, although it’s possible that it was really a cumulative effect.
  • I made it to the last 20 minutes of the dinner/mixer on Friday night, and everyone was delightfully welcoming and wonderful.
  • My interview was great, and I ended up being more impressed with the program than I anticipated.
Here’s a photo of me in my interview suit, seeing a bit of the campus.