• How I Met My Match

    April 18, 2024

    By Taree Chadwick
    Student Member of the AAFP Board of Directors

    In late February, I was sitting in a twin bed in my host family’s home in Santo Domingo, Costa Rica, staring at my National Resident Matching Program profile trying to decide how to make the decision of a lifetime.

    I spent a month in Costa Rica for a medical Spanish elective and had been trying to forget about the massive decision hanging over my head. The NRMP’s rank order list certification deadline was Feb. 28, and I was running out of time. Creating a rank list is so personal. How could I be certain that mine was the best it could be? Despite using all the tools available to me from the AAFP and having multiple conversations with my mentors and peers, it still was a difficult decision.

    How could I possibly differentiate between my No. 1, 2, 3 and 4 programs (and more) in an order that would hopefully land in my favor and put me in a residency program where I would spend the next three years?

    Taree Chadwick (second from left), student member of the AAFP Board of Directors, celebrates Match Day at the University of Nevada, Reno, School of Medicine.

    What if I chose wrong?

    What if I missed something important during my interviews?

    At some point you must trust your gut and hit submit.

    And that is what I did. I hit submit and didn’t look back.

    Side note: Costa Rica is beautiful, and my Spanish is somewhat improved. It was an amazing month that got me out of my comfort zone and let me explore a whole new culture. I highly recommend students take the opportunity to travel in your fourth year, especially if you can get an elective credit for doing it.

    Rewind to September 2023. Residency applicants, like me, started submitting applications to programs via the Electronic Residency Application Service, and programs started reviewing our applications near the end of that month. For the previous three months I had been working on my personal statement, getting letters of recommendation, writing about my 10 most meaningful experiences and finalizing my application.

    I made sure to get three letters from three strong writers, all of which were family physicians. (They don’t have to be.) I chose them because they know about me, my growth through medical school and my passion for our specialty. I knew by choosing these three I would be set. Make sure you establish relationships with mentors, and in return they will be able to write you stellar letters that can really make a difference.

    I think what was exceptionally special about my application was my background in theater and how I wove that into my personal statement. If you read my previous post, you understand that theater and medicine aren’t all that different in my eyes and my passion for medicine somewhat stems from my theater background. Weaving that throughout my statement helped paint a picture of who I am, why I wanted to do family medicine, and why I would be a good asset to a residency program. Gathering all the material for the application itself took a lot more time and work than I ever thought it would.

    And the work for this interview and Match season was just beginning.

    Oct. 2: I received my first interview invitation from my home program and uttered a big sigh of relief.

    Oct. 3: Multiple interview invites arrived from other programs I was excited about. An even bigger sigh of relief followed. And after that they kept rolling in!

    Choosing which programs to apply to was a feat all in itself. Before I could even look at programs, I had to decide what I wanted out of a program. I made a list of everything that was important to me: a justice-oriented program with robust training in reproductive justice and gender affirming care, opportunities for learning Spanish, well establish DEI initiatives, work in the community, to name a few qualities.

    I took a lot of time to look at program’s websites to see if what they offered aligned with what I wanted. Then I made a list. More than one person suggested applying to about 15 programs, and some school’s advisors will encourage you to apply to more.

    With my unique background, my decent test and clerkship scores (they were not perfect, but I had other things that made up for anything that was lacking), my letters and my extracurriculars, I had a solid application. I applied to 27 programs, which was a lot. But I was excited about those 27 programs and needed an interview to see if I was still excited afterward. How many you apply to and which ones you apply to is going to be different for every applicant.

    Oct. 23: I had my first interview. And I didn’t stop until the beginning of January.

    Here are my big takeaways from interviews:

    • Be yourself, unapologetically. I found I connected with residents and faculty more when I was laughing at a joke I made or bonding over our love of plants. The interviews I felt went the best were the ones that were more conversation and less intimidating question-and-answer session.

    • Figure out your “a little bit about yourself” and your “why” answer. You will be asked why you want to do whichever specialty you are going into and how you got there. Find a way to boil it down to a quick but passionate answer that will keep them intrigued.

    • You will sound like a broken record to yourself after multiple interviews, but try to maintain your enthusiasm as you answer similar questions, repeatedly, for two months.

    • If you are interviewing virtually, set up a nice background and area for your interview space. Sometimes I was doing early morning interviews while it was still dark outside here in Reno, Nevada, because I was meeting with programs in the Eastern time zone. I needed extra light, some plants in my background, coffee and a bright colored blouse to wake me up.

    • Take notes. During interviews, and immediately after each interview, I jotted down things I thought were important, questions they answered and, most importantly, the VIBES!

    • Be open. My first interview was supposed to be a “practice” interview where I got the jitters out, and it ended up being a program in my top five. I ended up matching at a residency program where I almost cancelled my interview. The season will surprise you.

    • If you have the opportunity and the means, take advantage of social hours and second looks. I attended as many virtual social hours as I could, but I missed all the second looks because I was in Costa Rica.

    Back to Costa Rica. Creating my rank list was fraught with stress, anxiety and doubt. I loved five programs almost equally and had to choose how to rank them. It’s hard. But as I said before, at some point you have to trust your gut.

    I had already created a list of programs that had almost everything I wanted. I wasn’t necessarily tied down by location. Although moving from the West Coast to the East Coast would have taken me far from family and been a little scary, I was willing. For the most part, my top five programs had the same resident support, curricular highlights, benefits and salary for their residents. But these are all things an applicant must think about and it is difficult to make such a big decision. The feeling after hitting submit was a mix of relief with stressful anticipation because now I had to wait two weeks. 

    March 15, Match Day: Our school has a themed Match Day celebration every year. This year our administration and faculty chose the theme Friends (the 1990s sitcom, which just happens to be a feel-good favorite TV show of mine.) It was perfect.

    Inside a decked-out ballroom with 75 classmates and hundreds of our people surrounding us, I was at a table with my family and closest friends, right next to a table occupied by my med school bestie and his family and friends. We stood there with our envelopes (replicas of the Friends iconic purple door) in our hands waiting on a countdown. I opened my door, and inside it said Swedish Medical Center - First Hill.

    I got my first choice and my dream program. There is honestly no feeling like the excitement of 75 fourth-year medical students opening their Match results at the same time and seeing where you get to spend the next three years.

    Of course, I cried. Years of hard work had come to fruition. It was 100% worth every moment, every doubt, every tear, every laugh, every single minute of this long road that got me here.

    I am ecstatic to spend the next three years of my life in Seattle at Swedish First Hill learning from an inspiring group of attending physicians, senior residents and 10 co-residents. In true Friends fashion, could I be any more excited?


    The opinions and views expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent or reflect the opinions and views of the American Academy of Family Physicians. This blog is not intended to provide medical, financial, or legal advice. All comments are moderated and will be removed if they violate our Terms of Use.