It all comes down to a day, a moment in that day - when the results of "The Match" are unveiled. For those of us that have gone through medical education, or are in a relationship with someone who has, we know “The Match” all too well. The process where typically a graduating medical student, ranks their desired residency programs, and the residency programs in turn rank applicants. These rankings then go into an algorithm process to match the two as closely as possible. The stakes are high, given as we know that having a medical degree isn’t enough to be eligible to practice medicine - it requires completing residency training as well.
This past Tuesday was "Match Day" here in Canada. After deciding, proving, performing, interviewing, and finally ranking, the hopeful residency applicants found out what their next 2 to 5 years will look like depending on the specialty they matched to. And given this is a legally binding process, it's non-negotiable. The results may also be completely devastating for some applicants that end up going unmatched. A second round match exists with left over residency spots from the first round, but if you wanted nothing more than to become a surgeon and no surgical specialty spots remain, then what? The emotional toll of being unmatched can be life-altering, and as a physician in this Healthy Debate article from last year said, "It’s like a shameful secret, 'Oh, so and so didn’t match, did you hear?'" In some cases, being unmatched has even lead to suicide - which is obviously devastating on so many levels.
We, Colin and Sara, were among the fortunate on our match day in 1998, having gone through the couples match and matching to our first choice at the University of Calgary. However, Colin now a radiologist, didn’t even rank radiology (or consider it for that matter) and was matched to psychiatry - his desired specialty at the time. The time frame to decide what specialty you want to pursue, and then go for it full on, is another part of the challenge in the early part of the whole match process. Especially if you want to do something competitive like radiology.
It just so happened that during Colin's first year of residency, where he rotated through different services (similar to a rotating internship), he did a stint in radiology and realized he was in the completely wrong specialty and found the one he should have been in. As luck would have it - and it truly was luck given the contractual nature of being in a residency program - a radiology resident was leaving the program to go into a different one so Colin was able to fill that spot after some evidence that he would be a ‘good fit’. If you know Colin, you know how serendipitous this was as radiology is actually an ideal fit for him.
We only draw attention to this personal outcome with our match experience to highlight that sometimes what seems perfect may not be, and what seems unfixable may be. Some very talented and bright people go unmatched and go on to achieve great things. "The Match" doesn't define who we are one way or another - only we can decide who we truly want to become.
“And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” ~ Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist