March 15 was a big day. I had been anticipating it with something akin to mania for weeks, with butterflies in my stomach and a tendency towards twitching a little when I thought of it. Match Day is the day when the majority of fourth year medical students find out where they are going for residency. The day when I would find out where I am uprooting my family to, and in which unfamiliar hospital I’ll to be hopelessly lost in about three months. My rank list was submitted weeks ago, but I hadn’t been able to stop thinking about whether or not I made the right choice, was my first choice as good as I thought it was, did I really want to live there, on and on. On Thursday, it was a relief to know that the suspense would soon be lifted and for better or worse, I would be committed to a residency program by the end of the day.
At my medical school, the ritual of opening our match letters is carried out in the lobby of the school administration building, which is attached to the main hospital. We each have student mailboxes in the lobby, which is where we get our grades and other school-related correspondence, and where we can have packages delivered when we’re on those rotations when we never see the sun. On Match Day, we assembled in the lobby beginning at 11:30 in the morning. Some were dressed nicely, reflecting the import of the news we were about to recieve, while others wore jeans and flip-flops, maybe trying to convince themselves that they felt as casual as they were dressed. We milled around, with spouses, children, parents and friends, making anxious small talk (mostly complaining about having to wait so long) and trying not to check our watches too obviously. Some third year medical students stood at the edge of the crowd, just watching, with arms crossed and curious expressions on their faces. Professors and deans circulated throughout, offering words of encouragement and congratulations. By 11:57, a friend and I had migrated to the edge of the crowd nearest the mailboxes, leaving our spouses and children at the back of the crowd. At noon exactly, the Dean of Student Services gestured to us that we could come back toward the boxes and get our letters.
My friend and I were the first ones to start back, we started at a walk but our pace rapidly increased until we were nearly running. We found our mailboxes propped open, an unexpected blessing because at that moment I couldn’t have told you my birthday much less the combination to my mailbox. The hospital photographer hovered over us, snapping pictures as we snatched our letters from the boxes, along with a letter opener that had been included. At the moment I thought it was just a nice touch. But by the time I made my way back to my husband, my hands were shaking so badly that without that opener I would have ripped the letter itself in trying to open the envelope. I had started to cry already, I have no idea why except that the moment was so unexpectedly emotional I was just caught up in it. I got the envelope open with letter intact, and through my tears saw my first choice listed. The relief that flooded through me was truly profound, and the tears began in earnest.
The next half hour was spent in total chaos, with nearly my entire class running around finding their friends, shouting congratulations, hugging joyfully and sometimes in consolation. It was a moment of sheer joy that yes we had survived medical school, yes we had matched, yes we are going to be residents. A validation of the last four (and more) years of our lives. Finally, sooner rather than later, we will be doctors.