Select Page

Perspective

I started writing this post on Match Day as I anxiously waited to open my envelope:

Today is Match Day. I have spent the last few weeks in full-blown panic mode, peppered by occasional minor panic attacks. I found out that I matched on Monday, which helped somewhat, but I never realized how much I hated the idea of not being in control of my future until recently.

As many others have said, the Match is a binding contract for the first year, and, despite feeling reasonably secure up until rank lists were submitted near the end of February, that knowledge has affected my stress levels far more than I would have guessed. After all, I understand how the algorithm works (and could probably code a reasonable facsimile of it myself) and I’m going into family medicine, which I love but is not one of the traditionally more competitive specialties.

But nevertheless, here we were. I did not sleep well last night. My alarm went off this morning, turning on the radio, which was just beginning its news report. The top story was that a local Michigan boy had his heart transplant last night after a perfect match was found. The boy had been in normal health in early January but has since developed congestive heart failure and he got his new heart last night.

So, suddenly Match Day doesn’t seem as important. Perspective is something, isn’t it? Helping people lead better and healthier lives is why I want to be a doctor in the first place. No matter where I go, that part will not change.


My family at Match Day – Mom, Grandma, me, brother Jeff, and Dad

It is now a few days after Match Day. I am very happy to be sleeping better, to feel less panicked, and to report that I will be doing my family medicine residency at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City! I am very excited about this new opportunity and what the future has in store.

After my early morning dose of reality on Match Day, I was much calmer as the zero hour approached. My stomach was absolutely tied in knots as I waited in line to receive my envelope, walk back to my family, and open it with baited breath. It is bittersweet to realize that soon I will be leaving Ann Arbor, the city where I was born and have spent more than half my life, and the routines I have developed here. But I will go to Utah, with several of my current classmates, and develop new routines and continue to grow into the doctor I strive to become.

It is now several weeks after Match Day. My family and I are creating lists upon lists to ensure that all logistics are in place for my move to Utah. I have been a Michigan lifer up until now; moving for college/med school was definitely low-stakes – my hometown is 20 minutes away from Ann Arbor. Salt Lake City, however, requires over 20 hours of driving. (I am happy for the invention of airplanes). But I am very excited for my next adventure and am already plotting how to watch Michigan football games with my co-interns.

The Alumni Association’s motto is “For those who leave Michigan, but for whom Michigan never leaves.” And this will absolutely be true for me as well. I am forever changed by my experiences here at UMMS – particularly every time I hear the word “tragedy” 😉 – and they will guide me as I embark on my new journey.

I have enjoyed sharing my perspectives with you over these past five years; thank you for reading! As past UM president Mary Sue Coleman would say, “For today, goodbye. For tomorrow, good luck. And forever, GO BLUE!”

Sara is a fourth-year medical student at UMMS. When not in the hospital, she can usually be found on the golf course or at a Michigan sporting event cheering on the Wolverines.

And they ran happily ever after

This weekend has been one I have anticipated for a long time. It started two years ago, when scrolling through Facebook posts. One of my friends from undergrad was sharing pictures of her running the Glass Slipper Challenge at Disney World. It looked like so much fun, and I was hooked.

What is the Glass Slipper Challenge (GSC)? Well, as it’s now called, the Fairy Tale Challenge (FTC) is a challenge event in the Princess Half-Marathon Weekend in which participants complete a 10k on Saturday and a half-marathon on Sunday, and then receive an extra awesome-looking medal in exchange. At this point, I was gearing up to do my first half-marathon in about a month and the challenge sounded like fun (I was so naive).

After that first half-marathon, I did not walk normally for at least a week (my ankle did not appreciate crowned roads it appeared) and let the idea of the GSC/FTC go. I was not fully trained for that one, due to prelims preparation and my research that was ramping up in the month or two leading up to the race.

Over time, my enthusiasm for the FTC returned. (I quickly forgot about my vow to never do another half-marathon). I decided that I wanted to participate during my M4 year, as the more-flexible-than-M3-year schedule would allow me to properly train and complete the blockbuster event.

Training started off shaky, mostly because I was supposed to start thrice-weekly runs during interview season. I dutifully packed my exercise clothes and running shoes in my already bulging suitcase. I worked out once at my first interview. Oops.

Thankfully, I was much more diligent about my training once interviews ended and felt much more confident about my success. In this case, I defined success as the ability to continue touring the parks even after finishing the half-marathon. I was able to achieve that, even if my walk looked a little…off… for parts of Sunday and Monday. And, best of all, I was able to get a picture with Belle (my favorite princess) while wearing my Belle costume after the 10k!

My family and I had so much fun sampling Disney World’s newest rides and revisiting our favorite blasts from the past. I am so grateful for the medical school environment that allows me to pursue my goals, even if they are not medically related. I am also happy that the medical tent did not need to be a stop on our touring plan 😉

Training for a half-marathon can be similar to medical school – both involve a significant input of time and effort, and can sometimes make you wonder whether you want to keep going. But that’s what makes it even more exciting and rewarding when you push through and achieve more than you had previously thought possible.

This past weekend has been amazing, and thankfully helped me forget (occasionally) that rank lists are now finalized and all that’s left to do is wait. Fingers crossed for all the graduating med students out there anxiously waiting, too, and congrats to those who already learned their fate!

Sara is a fourth-year medical student at UMMS. When not in the hospital, she can usually be found on the golf course or at a Michigan sporting event cheering on the Wolverines.

Embroidering Gingerbread

One of my favorite parts of UMMS is the plethora of opportunities to pursue and develop your passions. For example, last year, I was one of several artists who were invited to submit artwork to decorate the new Taubman Health Sciences Library (THSL) student lounge space.

I have always enjoyed a variety of creative pursuits, including graphic design, music, drawing and, more recently, embroidery. At that time, I had finished a tote bag embroidery kit and was looking for my next project. The opportunity to design for THSL came at the perfect time, and I designed and embroidered my project in a matter of weeks.

That project fueled others, starting small with bookmarks, a snowglobe pillow, and then, finally, the embroidery project that consumed the vast majority of my free time since June. Everyone always told me how the residency interview process involved a lot of available time to pursue hobbies, and so I decided to embroider a gingerbread house quilt as a Christmas present. It was the perfect project, in that each block/gingerbread house was portable enough to work on during innumerable flights but could be assembled into something special.

As time went on, I grew increasingly concerned about whether I would finish in time. I had visions of presenting my grandmother with scraps of fabric, a sort of IOU and a promise that the quilt would soon be finished. Thankfully, by working flat out during the month of December, the quilt was finished, on Christmas Eve. Whew, I cut it close.

I love the finished project. It’s even more fun to look at the blocks and say, “this is the block I did on NICU nights” or “this one I did during lunch periods on Dermatology”. For the last several weeks, I’ve been so happy to no longer need to work on the quilt and getting caught up on my reading/other life activities. I’m starting to feel restless again, though, so it may soon be time to start working on my next project. What that will be, I don’t know, but Michigan will give me the time and space to figure it out.

Sara is a fourth-year medical student at UMMS. When not in the hospital, she can usually be found on the golf course or at a Michigan sporting event cheering on the Wolverines.

There’s No Place like Home for the Holidays

It’s hard to believe that Christmas is so close. The last few months (really, all of M4 thus far) has been such a blur; it seems like the fall term should be barely starting and yet everyone has already finished their final exams.

I finished my last interview last week, and I have to admit that I’m thrilled to be home for a while. (I was starting to get a bit motion sick from all the flights, believe it or not). Interview season has been a blast – meeting all these other students, residents, and faculty who are passionate about family medicine while exploring new cities and beautiful scenic landscapes. But I’m happy to be home for now and experience all that holidays with family encompass.

And also recover from the cold I developed during my last trip. All things considered, I’m impressed that my immune system made it this long without succumbing to the germs spread by the throngs of people I encountered in every airport. It’s the unfortunate consequence of traveling, wacky sleep schedules, and, well, winter.

I sadly did not achieve my one goal during interview season of not running in the airport – it became necessary during my last trip to catch a connecting flight. My flight out of Detroit was delayed for almost an hour in order to de-ice the plane, which made an already tight connection just a smidge tighter. Thankfully, I was able to make my next flight even if I had to cross that goal off the list of possibilities.

One good part of all the flight time was that I finished the embroidery portion of the gingerbread house quilt I’m making as a Christmas present. The quilting part of the process is still in progress, so fingers crossed I finish in time, but the end is in sight.

I do love Ann Arbor around the holidays. Everything looks so festive, and the spirit of giving is ever-present. Also, basketball season is ramping up, with its concomitant fun – when we played UCLA, it was Star Wars day, with stormtroopers and even Darth Vader himself roaming Crisler Arena.

Fans also brought toys to donate to the patients in C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital – my brother and I are sure that this cute bear will go to a good home!

And don’t forget the Christmas cookies (these awesome ones were distributed after a women’s basketball game).

Happy Holidays everyone!

Sara is a fourth-year medical student at UMMS. When not in the hospital, she can usually be found on the golf course or at a Michigan sporting event cheering on the Wolverines.

Whirlwind

I am sitting in an airport. I seem to be doing this a lot lately. Residency interview season is now in full swing; I’m in the middle of my scheduled interviews. Traveling around the country has been a lot of fun but is also rather tiring.

I actually started writing this post a week ago; I am sitting in an airport once again. Thankfully, this is my last one before I take a week off for Thanksgiving.

Lessons I have learned on the residency interview trail thus far:
⁃ TSA Pre-Check is amazing: I went through the approval process back in January and it was honestly some of the best money I have spent. It allows me to pass through security a bit faster, without having to remove my shoes or belt, leave my laptop and liquids inside my carry-on, and frankly just have an easier time with it. I ended up getting Global Entry, a program which allows expedited customs when entering the U.S. Global Entry costs $100 and automatically confers TSA Pre-Check, while TSA Pre-Check alone costs $85.
⁃ I am tired. Traveling across time zones is not an easy task, particularly in the evenings and early mornings. There have absolutely been times when I almost fell asleep standing up at the resident dinners because of this. My suggestion is to try to sleep whenever possible – on the plane if you can but definitely consider napping in between your arrival to the city and the resident dinner. On a similar vein, try not to schedule 6am flights, because they could entail waking up around 2-3am and I never thought I’d consider surgery hours as sleeping in.
⁃ Because of ACGME requirements, a lot of programs within the same specialty do similar things. Nevertheless, each program has its own flavor and definite vibe. Pay attention to this during the interview to see where you’d best fit in.
⁃ It’s a lot of fun to meet all of the other applicants and residents at your programs, but you will not remember their names for the most part (at the moment, I’m struggling to remember what day of the week it is let alone any names). So, if you really connect with a resident, write down their info immediately so you can easily contact them later with questions.
⁃ Write down program info right after finishing the interview because everything is blurring together at this point. I try to write down some notes while waiting at the airport for my return flight to jog my memory later. Another option I’ve heard of is to speak into your phone and record a voice memo (that way, your thoughts are even more unscripted without the automatic censoring that occurs when your thoughts go faster than your fingers).
⁃ Similarly, write your thank-you notes as soon after the interview as possible. With 3-5 interviews at each program, the notes can pile up quickly and it’s harder to remember what you actually discussed even the next day.
⁃ You will be fed, a lot and often. Honestly, it’s a lot more food than I’m used to eating in a day, let alone multiple days per week. Interview suits tend to feel progressively tighter during the interview season so plan accordingly when choosing your outfit.

Despite the increasing fatigue, I am really enjoying the process. And, I’m getting a lot of time to work on my Christmas present for my grandmother – embroidering gingerbread houses to combine into a quilt. I’m certainly making good progress during all my layovers 🙂 My mom came with me on this trip, so we both worked on our needlework while flying!

Sara is a fourth-year medical student at UMMS. When not in the hospital, she can usually be found on the golf course or at a Michigan sporting event cheering on the Wolverines.