Oh, hello. Didn't notice you there. Been distracted with this thing called "life" the past 2 1/2 months. Amazing how as my clinical responsibilities tail off, other things find a way to take their place.
Anyways, time to share the verdict. As I had said before, I was a late switch onto the ENT track (during the first half of my third year) and I approached the match process with more than a bit of apprehension. I was a good student, sure. I had the necessary board scores. But I hadn't set up any free clinics in Africa or presidented any associations or covered my walls with awards from medical school. I think I can fairly call myself a fairly "average" ENT applicant. That being said, I believe myself to be a very likable person, a hard worker, have a good rapport with patients, and I tend to be efficient & pick up things fairly quickly. As a result, I feel like the feedback I received from residents was that I was someone they would absolutely love to work with, and that I would interview very well. I think my LORs represented that fairly well.
I think it was difficult for me coming from a medical school in which a lot of students go into primary care and very few (4 in the last 5 years) go into ENT. I felt like I didn't have a good roadmap paved by former grads like some of my classmates did. I applied to 45 programs, which felt like an extraordinary amount of programs compared to my peds/FM/IM classmates who were applying to 15-20. In hindsight, I probably would have applied to 15-20 more.
In the end, I was probably lucky, but I net a good number of interview offers, and attended 11 interviews. The ones I did not attend were primarily due to conflict with other interview dates and inability to get to the destination program on time. So I basically accepted all comers. I ranked all 11 programs I interviewed at, because, on a whole, I was blown away by the quality of ENT programs across the board - seems like there really are no bad programs out there.
Making the rank list was incredibly difficult. I felt like I was perseverating over minor shades of gray concerning issues that really aren't that important for the quality of your training. But you need to sort out programs in some way, so I had to choose some points which were more important to me than others. The most important thing driving my rank list was the surgical volume and quality of surgical training. Overall, when I asked myself "what is my real goal in residency?", being comfortable with performing the breadth of ENT procedures was my #1 priority. Along those lines, I also ranked programs higher if they had a well rounded faculty and a good track record of sending graduates into both fellowship and private practicen and departments that were stable and growing. Second most important was the intangible camaraderie I felt amongst the residents and with the residents and staff. I favored programs where I could see myself having fun at work over programs where the residents tended to work then go home to their lives. The size and atmosphere of the city of the program also played a factor. Less important to me was weather, distance from home, cost of living, call schedule, etc.
I consider myself a fairly even-keeled person, and I didn't work myself up too much over the whole match process. But the week before match week, my id kicked in. I had nightmares I didn't match because I didn't certify my rank order list. Dreams I matched at my #1. Nightmares I matched at my home program but was failing as a resident. The subconscious is a crazy thing. The Monday of match week was one of the most nauseating mornings of my life. I'm lucky I am on a clinical rotation and had rounds to distract me, but from 8:30-9am, I was dreading the buzz of my iPhone on my belt. Finally, the buzz came and it took me a good 30 seconds to work up the courage to open the email.
"Congratulations, you have successfully matched!"
I don't know if what I felt at that moment was elation, excitement, or relief - probably a combination of all three. But it felt like a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I didn't care where I ended up - I had matched into ENT. The rest of the week was a blur. I actually slept like a baby Wednesday night, unlike some of my classmates. But when Thursday morning arrived, the nausea returned. Turns out, I DID care where I would be spending the next half a decade plus of my life. The 30 minutes between 9 and 9:30am, mingling with friends and classmates, felt like 3 hours.
The moment came, and they opened the door to our "match room" where all our envelopes were located. I got my envelope and shimmied out of the cattle drive. I held the envelope for what felt like several minutes, then opened it slowly.
I had matched at my #2 program.
My response went somewhat in the sequence of shock -> excitement -> shock -> doubt -> shock -> excitement & doubt. I hadn't really considered the possibility of matching to my #2 program a whole lot, because I saw it as somewhat of a reach for an applicant of my stature. Frankly, it seemed out of my league. So, internalizing the reality that - (1) I had matched there (2) I was actually going there (3) I was moving there in 3 months - took more than a while to process. Frankly, I think I am still processing it. But the more it sinks in, the more excited I become.
So, yeah. All those hours spent slaving away over syllabi the first two years. The grueling days spent studying for Step 1. The mindless times spent crunching charts of research in front of my laptop. The long days and late nights of third year. My sub-i and aways. The pre-rounds, rounds, and presentations. The writeups and scut. That f'ing personal statement. The countless hours spent on airplanes and countless nights spent in hotel rooms. All of it brought me to this point. The finality of it is daunting, in a way. But in 3 months, I will be moving thousands of miles away from my home, my friends and family, to start the process of becoming a physician and surgeon for the next half decade of my life. There is something incredibly intimidating and exhilarating about that reality.