Results of the National Resident Matching Program will be released on March 20. As Match Day drew near, Margaret Miller, student member of the AAFP Board of Directors and a fourth-year medical student at East Tennessee State University's Quillen College of Medicine, met with Kelly Thibert, D.O., M.P.H., resident member of the Board and a third-year resident at the Grant Family Medicine Residency at the OhioHealth Grant Medical Center, to discuss their respective Match experiences.
We're sharing their conversation below for the benefit of others awaiting Match results this week, as well as medical students who will participate in the process in the future. We also have been sharing other fourth-year students' answers to some of these same questions recently on Instagram.
Kelly: Matching is a long process, and you're finally almost at the end. What has it been like for you?
Margaret: My experience is a little unique in that I am "couples matching." My husband is matching into internal medicine, so my experience is probably different than most applicants'. I did a few more interviews than a single applicant might, so that made my interview season longer.
I really didn't anticipate how exhausting the process would be! I like to think of myself as an outgoing person, but you meet a lot of new people and get fed a lot of information at each interview. It can be quite overwhelming sometimes to be traveling, to be away from your partner and trying to imagine yourself as a doctor in a new place you're not familiar with. I'm glad that's behind me. I'm anxious to find out where I'll be going.
What's the Match experience like from the other side, as a resident meeting candidates?
Kelly: The Match process from the resident side is actually really exciting and fun, which is a great change from going through the Match as a student. We get to participate in recruitment season, interview season and, of course, Match Day. Throughout the entire yearlong process of getting to know so many people -- who are potentially going to be part of your program -- you get inspired by all the passion they have and their excitement about becoming family doctors.
One of my favorite things about being a resident on Match Day is that we get to celebrate and welcome new people to our family. As residents, we spend many hours away from our families with this other family. These are people you want to know and love and like. It's exciting to see who is going to be part of your residency family. In my program, we have a Match Day celebration where we close the office during the second half of the day in anticipation of the release of names. This year, the celebration will look a bit different; more technology will be used than we typically would have, and we will not gather together in person to celebrate (social distancing), but we will unveil our newest 10 family members electronically and with no less excitement than any other year. We will then reach out to shower the newest residents with the "Grant Love" that our program is known for. It's really exciting from our end, which is a very different experience from the student perspective.
Margaret: My favorite interviews were definitely the ones where I had great conversations with faculty and residents who inspired me, and I was really excited by the opportunity that I might get to work with them as mentor or role model if I was a resident there. I would agree there are moments that can be really inspiring and invigorating for students as well, but it's still a lot!
What would you tell your pre-Match self if you could go back in time?
Kelly: Probably the biggest thing I would tell myself is just to chill out. I would say, "You have worked so hard to get where you are, from studying all the time to taking board exams and passing board exams. You've gotten to the point where you're about to become a physician. I know the Match is a huge thing and a huge step and it feels like you have no control over it. You have done marvelous things, and great things are coming your way. Things will work out as they will, and now it's out of your hands, so just chill out."
Margaret: I think that's the most difficult thing at this point. Things really are out of my hands. I don't have any control over the process from here on out. I've already sent my rank list and we're just in a waiting period, so good distractions are always welcome.
Kelly: What were you looking for in programs, and do you think you found it?
Margaret: I hope I found it. I definitely think I did at a handful of places.
There are a lot of things across the board that are pretty similar between programs because of certain core requirements that every program has to meet. For me, there were a few things that stood out to make a program different. One would be access to education and training opportunities in particular medical areas that I'm interested in, including hormone replacement therapy and caring for LGBTQ populations, and also a program that incorporated getting certification to do medication-assisted therapy. Other things I am interested in are advocacy and finding a place willing to let me continue working with the AAFP and other organizations.
Having a diverse group of residents was important to me -- people from different backgrounds from different parts of the country, people who look different from me and have different perspectives on medicine.
Lastly, the biggest thing that differentiates a program is the people you meet. I felt like I met more faculty than residents, so for me finding faculty I felt I could be close to, train under and learn a lot from was what I was looking for. I definitely think I found that. I hope I end up at one of those places where I felt like I found it.
Kelly: What are you excited or nervous about, knowing you're soon going to be a family physician?
Margaret: There are a lot of things I'm nervous about, but I'm actually more excited. I feel so ready to move on to the next part of my training.
I'm excited to have my own patients. As a student, you work so much as part of a team and introduce yourself as part of the team. It will be nice to see people over the course of my residency and help them deal with issues over time.
There are parts of medicine I'm nervous about, but the thing I really am hopeful about is that places I interviewed at -- and I would say this about almost all of them -- is that the support systems and faculty at each one really felt passionate about teaching, and that's why they were there. Maybe their particular emphasis of what they were interested in teaching wasn't what I was looking for, but they were still really supportive, kind people who were looking to train great residents, so I feel less nervous than I do excited. I'm more nervous about the Match than I am residency itself.
What have been the most meaningful moments of being a family physician for you?
Kelly: Being able to have my own patients and care for the whole family while practicing full-spectrum family medicine. People often say we are the cradle-to-grave specialty, and it's so true. We care for prenatal patients, deliver their babies and see them in the office with their families. They might bring Grandma in, too, because they liked the way you cared for them. Then you get to care for the whole family, even up through hospice and palliative care, which is a really important part of medicine.
We're so fortunate to be part of patients' lives. They allow us to be part of very intimate moments -- whether good or bad -- sometimes things they don't allow family members to be part of. These have been the most memorable things for me.
But also getting to know more about family medicine. You think you know about the specialty you are matching into, but you don't know the breadth and how incredible the specialty is until you're in it. You get to participate in things like the AAFP and get to know so many more people and the things they are doing in family medicine. I'm inspired daily by the family physicians I meet. I'm really happy I chose this profession and specialty.
Margaret: What's your advice for students transitioning to residency?
Kelly: Don't study. Take a break.
I had a different path to residency. I spent a year doing health policy between medical school and residency, so I felt like I had to study, and I did review some clinical stuff. Looking back, I don't know how much that helped me compared to the things I actually learned firsthand in the hospital. All the things you learned in medical school will help you, but nothing will give you what you need more than just being there and doing it as a resident.
You have worked so hard to get to this point. Take a break and celebrate the fact that you are about to become a family doctor.
So, what would you tell a first-year student already nervous about matching?
Margaret: The Match is definitely not something I worried about as a first-year, and I would not recommend worrying about it as first-year. Focus on the day-to-day of what you are doing. Nothing will prepare you more for your fourth year than first year, second year and third year, each in their time. You have enough on your plate to worry about first year!
As far as tips for nerves in general, try to balance your life the best you can. I think that's different for everyone in medical school. For me it was sometimes yoga or traveling, but it also was vegging out on the couch and watching Netflix after a big test. Getting involved in things that reminded me why I wanted to be a doctor in the first place was my saving grace.
What about your Match experience? When you were going through it, what affected where you applied and what were you looking for?
Kelly: I was all over the place because I was looking specifically for training. Location didn't matter so much because I thought whether I trained in a rural or suburban area, as long as I had the acuity and patient load, I would learn what I needed to learn and could go wherever I wanted, whether that be a rural or suburban setting.
Margaret: Family medicine is so different for different people. What kind of questions were you asking on the interview trail?
Kelly: It's funny because I was asking a lot of same questions you asked. I was looking for MAT training, gender-affirming care experiences, comprehensive reproductive health care, opportunities to participate in advocacy and social justice, and the ability to remain involved in the Academy. I think all those things are important.
Patients are so often marginalized and people might not have the bandwidth or knowledge set to provide these aspects of care. It's such a passion of mine. I wanted to be able to provide these things for patients no matter where I ended up.
I also was looking for places where I would be heavily trained in inpatient care and obstetrics. I feel wholeheartedly that it's important to be trained in inpatient and obstetric medicine as a family medicine doctor. We need to understand what has medically happened during a patient's admission because we then continue to manage the outcomes once they are discharged -- some of us even continue to care for patients in those inpatient and obstetric settings as family medicine doctors.
That's what's great about family medicine: We have such a breadth of practice that one can always find what they're looking for.
Margaret: Did you find all the things you were looking for?
Kelly: I 100% did, which is really incredible.