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Thursday Mar 16, 2017

Take a Deep Breath, Relax and Trust the Magic of the Match

If there is a day that defines the rest of your life, one that will shape who you are and what you will become, that day is not Match Day.  

It might be the day you started to steal all the Christmas presents in Whoville, but when you heard the Whos singing, you stopped and your heart grew three sizes. Or maybe it was the day you bonded with an alien symbiote and turn into Venom. 

Thousands of fourth-year medical students will find out where they are headed next when results of the National Resident Matching Program are released on March 17.

Barring miraculous holiday harmonies or supervillain spaceship crashes, no single day has that much power, my friends. Who you are and what you will become are purely functions of your decisions.

This is the most important thing to know about Match Day: You have the inestimable responsibility of self-determination both before and after March 17. Where you match won't change that.

Second, there is magic in the Match. Things just seem to work out, largely because the people who want to go into family medicine are wonderful, and the people who teach family medicine are wonderful. Wherever you end up, you will learn to be an excellent doctor. This is the truth of family medicine residencies.

Third, after the Match and before you start your residency, take as much time off as possible. It is unlikely that you will have more than two weeks off at a time for the next several years, so make the most of it. See something you've never seen before.   

Finally, if you do not end up where you wanted, it feels terrible. Your reaction is valid. It is OK to be sad.

Or angry.

Or disappointed.

If you are feeling an emotion, allow yourself to feel it. Allow yourself to talk about it, to be honest about it. If you are distraught, find someone who loves you and isn't afraid to tell you why. This, by the way, is important for every day, not just Match Day, and every emotion, not just disappointment.  

You're going to be a great doctor. You're already a great person, and that's arguably more important. Do not forget it, no matter what happens. Just remember to do the compassionate, thoughtful, generous things that make you you -- wherever you are. It's the family doctor way.

Stewart Decker, M.D., is the resident member of the AAFP Board of Directors.


Welcome aboard, soon to be FP's. There has never been a time when we need you more than ever.

For me, it's 19 years and counting. I was in the middle of a rural rotation on that fateful day. That morning I drove 3 hours down to the university to get my result.

I felt so validated that afterwards I drove back on the same day to the rural site to help out the solo FP doc who happened to be taking calls that night for the ED. In a small community hospital, he was their only night shift staffing and had to sleep there overnight. I wasn't sure if he were busy, but he let me sleep throughout the night as his way of saying thanks and that he was glad that I'd picked FP as my chosen mission in life.

I could have went to town and celebrated with my other 175 colleagues, but it felt bittersweet with me so I didn't. Our destinations were set. Our senioritis was flaring up big time. It was hard for me to look forward and at the same time getting ready to let go of the most wonderful education and friendships I had ever had, not to mention all the professors and mentors out there.

The intimacy of medicine reached its pinnacle, personally for me, on that Match Day.


Posted by Michael N., MD on March 16, 2017 at 12:17 PM CDT #

Very well stated Stewart. Great advice for all of us no matter your stage. Remember that you have most control over your residency education. Point number 2 is especially important to remember. Welcome aboard all. We are on a great and gratifying journey!

Posted by Keith S on March 23, 2017 at 08:19 AM CDT #

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