My Residency Story
Hey guys! I have received numerous requests since the start of this website and since Match Day to share my residency story. I am willing to share the story, however, as a disclaimer, I don't intend to use this to brag in any way, shape, or form. Medical school and the residency match is a humbling experience since you really have to work hard to be able to stand out and prove yourself to programs. I hope this story helps inspire my fellow IMGs and to show that you are all worth it and you all can match.
Here is a little bit of background before I begin: I attended medical school August 2014 in Antigua and left the island October 2016. From October 2016 - May 2017 I studied to retake the CBSE (I failed it in Med 4 and Med 5), passed it in December and studied for the USMLE Step 1, taking it in February 2017 and receiving my score in March. As a rule for my school, we weren't allowed to start clinical rotations until our Step 1 scores were released. I started FM1/IM1 rotations in May.
I knew I had wanted to apply to Emergency Medicine during my second year of medical school. I was previously an ED scribe during undergrad, but was willing to explore other specialties. We were given 2 opportunities of shadowing between semesters so I shadowed a nephrologist and an ED physician. I loved helping in the ED the most. Anyway, so I completed my third year without taking breaks and prepared to take the CCSE for Step 2 CK around May since my exam date was in June 2018. I had already set up my fourth year electives and was prepared for the 2019 match, assuming I would pass the CCSE in June. Unfortunately, I missed the exam by 2 points which set my entire timeline back by 2 months.
*As a side note: during my year, our school's rule was for us to take CCSE and pass it before being able to schedule Step 2 CK AND CS. If you fail the CCSE (passing is a 79), you can only reschedule it every other month.
So therefore, I had to take CCSE again in August, pushing CK to October (max 2 months of studying), receiving my CK report in November and unsure when to take CS. I also had started taking 4th year electives which required effort since they were my EM audition rotation, an IM rotation where I wanted an LOR as well as a sub-internship in Family Medicine.
During my study period, I had become very anxious and was filled with a lot of self doubt. I was debating whether to still apply for the 2019 match (with an incomplete application without SLOEs) or to wait until 2020. I also noticed my school only had one hospital affiliation that could provide me with a SLOE which also worried me a lot since I knew the minimum for programs were two SLOEs. I had set my electives with other EM rotations without programs just to get more experience, but I was still at a loss. I ended up calling the dean of my school and told him my situation. He advised me to still apply for the 2019 match (which I felt very uncomfortable doing) and he had told me that there is possibly another hospital that we will be affiliated with. He urged me to send a letter of intent for emergency medicine which he forwarded to 2 program coordinators. I ended up getting an offer to rotate at that hospital, and I immediately took the offer in a heartbeat.
I attended ACEP 2018 in San Diego and moved straight to northern California in order to prepare for my rotation while studying for my boards. I was set to rotate mid October which was the same time as Step 2 CK. I felt uncomfortable managing the rotation while studying so I ended up pushing my rotation to the next block, giving myself more time to study. I also ended up having my CS date scheduled 2 weeks after CK in Houston thanks to the scheduler who helped me.
I finished my exams and had a fresh start to my rotation. It was tough at first since I was in a new environment and was the only medical student rotating. I made friends with the scribes as well as the residents. I even got to know the attending physicians really well (including the PD and DIO) since I worked with them a lot. I came in to my shifts early and left 1-2 hours later than intended. This rotation definitely made me work hard since I had a shift 6 times a week, but I really loved every moment of it.
Halfway through my rotation, I had spoken with the PD multiple times since she was worried about my decision to wait until the 2020 match since I would be finished with rotations March 2019. She had stated that the gap year would raise a red flag to programs. I even worked with the DIO, and he had said the same thing. I thought about what they had said for a while, however, I still was going to wait until 2020.
One random day during lecture, the dean of my school called me on my phone and told me that the DIO from the hospital I was rotating at called him to talk about me. The DIO had mentioned my intent to wait for the 2020 match but he had strongly told my dean that I should apply to that program this year. I ended up making an appointment with the PD who told me to submit my ERAS application and start the PTAL. She even offered me an interview to help me out which was something I did not deserve.
In the end, I applied mid December to only 14 programs in NY, NJ and CA with 2 SLOEs (1 SLOE came in 6 months later due to communication problems). I only received that one interview, and in the end, matched to that program, which I currently am working at right now.
There are days when I feel I don't deserve this position since I know so many colleagues who also applied to EM and applied to 200+ programs. However I know I worked hard and gave my best during my audition rotation. I am so grateful to the DIO, PD, and dean of my school for pushing me. This program is amazing, and I hope to become the best physician I can be through their guidance.
If you have any questions, comments, or concerns regarding residency, please contact me! I would love to clarify anything or provide additional guidance.