Fourth-year med students reflect on Virtual Match Day and offer advice for other med students
by Emma Mattson
Each year, Match Day marks an important milestone for fourth-year medical students transitioning into residency. This year, we asked ten fourth years to share their reflections on our virtual Match Day, as well as a piece of advice for other med students. Here’s what they had to say.
I thought that the Virtual Match Day was a great alternative to the typical festivities and made the most of the unfortunate situation. It was very exciting to see where my peers matched in close to real time, and we had a very active GroupMe within our class where congratulations were made after each announcement.
Given the current circumstances, the finish of medical school seems surreal. I am very excited to begin residency and start my training and be a valuable contributor to patient care. However, it will be sad to leave Nashville and all my friends and mentors here. It is particularly difficult as it seems likely that we will not be able to make our formal goodbyes.
My biggest piece of advice to future medical students is that the adage that “medical school is a marathon and not a sprint” is true and you should approach your time as such. You will learn a ton during your 4+ years at Vanderbilt and grow as future physicians. However, it is important to take the time to enjoy the ride.
Virtual Match Day had some benefits that the traditional ceremony doesn’t always offer, which is that everyone from all over the country was messaging in with their congratulations. It made me realize how much bigger our support network is even beyond the walls of Langford. With Covid-19 going on, I think health care professionals have a lot of ability to make an impact in educating the population, helping patients through, and being a translator for what’s going on in the media. I’m looking forward to being part of the solution in the coming weeks and even beyond.
Advice to other med students? Recognize all the people that it takes to get to this position of matching, and never forget that. It’s the patients that we see in the hospital. It’s the family members who have supported us along the way, financially and emotionally. It’s all the mentorship that we’ve received from the Vanderbilt faculty and even before then.
When we learned our Match Day would be virtual, the students and faculty responded as they always do. They asked for our feedback and worked tirelessly to create something that would be special. I’m grateful to have trained with mentors and peers that embody these principles and know this environment has been the best preparation for the unexpected challenge we now face as new health care providers.
As an MD/PhD student, it feels surreal to have finally matched. During my interview weekend, I remember being impressed by Vanderbilt’s supportive faculty, dedicated leadership, and proactive student body. Over the years I’ve watched a lot of things change – students and faculty came and went, curriculum 1.0 became 2.0, VU became VU and VUMC – but those core values that brought me here nearly 8 years ago have remained resolute.
Ever since applications were going in for Match, I’ve been looking forward to graduation and starting a new chapter. Fourth year is the final mile in the marathon, and so we’re looking forward to growing into a new role. If I were to choose medical schools again, I would 100% make the same choice. It’s because we have such phenomenal students who work really well together. Also, the faculty do a good job of establishing such a collegial and awesome environment.
Seek help when you feel like you need help is the biggest advice I have. There’s always going to be faculty, attendings, residents, other medical students, peers who are there and willing to help you. They just don’t know that you need help. We tend to be a population who don’t necessarily ask for help because we always have been so successful. But medical school is different, so learning when to ask for help is really important.
Having dealt with chronic pain during medical school, there were times when I didn’t know if I would make it onto that Match Day stage. Upon restoring my health, I was so excited to open my envelope on stage with my friends and family. It was heartbreaking when I found out I wouldn’t be able to walk on that stage, and my friends and family had to cancel their trips.
However, I’m so grateful that our wonderful faculty put on the virtual ceremony for us, and I still had the element of surprise when Dean Fleming and Dean Brady announced my match.
I felt a deep sense of gratitude for the opportunity to be here and to have made it through four years and for all the people who’ve invested in me over the course of the four years. Match Day didn’t work out as we planned, but I think I was expecting to be more disappointed than I actually was. I still felt gratitude and excitement!
Advice to other med students? Cry “Help!” when you need to. My experience has been that I’ve cried “Help” when I needed it, and there have been members of the community who opened their doors and opened their hearts multiple times. So just know, if you’re ever struggling, there is help if you ask for it.
While the Match Day email alone was the most exciting part of the day, I appreciated the positivity and efforts of the medical school in making the best of the situation. Virtual or not, my excitement for the day remains the same! I am finally completing this stage of my training after a decade of education! More than anything, I feel an overwhelming sense of appreciation for the immense guidance from mentors and family. I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to pursue this training with continued support throughout. Now, I feel ready to begin contributing!
To other med students, your hard work and dedication will become apparent very soon! This is an exciting time to not only prepare for your career in medicine, but to also develop as a person, so keep doing what inspires you so that you can continue to inspire others.
While Match Day was not how I imagined it, the people in my life thought of creative ways to make the celebration special: my husband had stashed away some Duke apparel, my mom had cookies delivered from a local bakery, my dad brought over a Duke ball cap, and the family and friends who were originally going to come into town to celebrate sent their congratulations over FaceTime. I was grateful to be able to have my husband, my two-year-old daughter, and my mom and dad with me when I found out the details of this next stage of life.
In comparison to the magnitude of hardship the virus is causing around the world, it can feel selfish to mourn personal disappointments. Each person in my class is feeling the inability to celebrate together differently, but the hardest part for me has been the abruptness with which normalcy in life in Nashville ended without having the chance to cherish those moments and say goodbye. I wore my white coat and saw a patient as a medical student for the last time without knowing it. I gathered with the dear friends I had made in the MSTP during our weekly seminar for the last time and may not see them again before moving out-of-state for residency. My husband and I have been very involved in a local church for the past seven years, and we have likely gone to our last service before in-person gatherings will reconvene. We always knew that saying goodbye to the people and things we love in Nashville was going to be difficult, but COVID-19 has made it hard in a way we had not anticipated.
Certainly the virtual Match Day was not what I or my classmates ever expected, but in the context of near-unprecedented global pandemic, it felt like the absolute least sacrifice we could make in order to do our part through social distancing. I am impatient to finish up this final year of medical school. The meaningful part — Match — is done and what remains is just red tape. It is time to begin my specialty training and get on the wards helping combat against this virus.
For advice to medical students below me, I will cite Churchill: Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never — in nothing, great or small, large or petty — never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense.
I applaud Deans Fleming and Brady (along with everyone else in Medical Student Affairs) for doing such a wonderful job setting up our virtual match when the decision was made to limit gatherings due to COVID-19. They still made it feel very special for the fourth years by continuing many of the traditions (i.e. putting money into the fishbowl, hilarious announcements from faculty, announcing where our fellow classmates had matched, and placing pins on maps).
While my friends and family could no longer join me physically from out of town, we were able to watch the ceremony together virtually and on FaceTime and they celebrated with me as my name was called. So many FaceTimes happened with my friends within the medical school (and even other medical schools) for more rounds of congratulations! Honestly my favorite part of Match Day was just hearing Deans Fleming and Brady announce where all of my colleagues matched! Lots of happy tears were shed that day.
Advice for other medical school students? Enjoy the journey, take some time for yourself, and celebrate your friends and others around you. Trust me, the time will go by immensely fast, so take time for yourself and your friends whenever you can, and reach out whenever you need help. These four years will have highs and lows and won’t always be predictable, but what you will always be able to count on are the people around you. Vanderbilt’s outstanding curriculum and amazing faculty and patients have truly transformed me these last four years, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything else
This content has been edited for clarity and length.