By Lorie-Mae Nicolas (’21)
In August of 2017 I started my medical school journey with the anticipation of graduation in 2021 to celebrate and reap the rewards of all the hard work and sleepless nights I was sure to have. I would often talk excitedly about fourth year, residency applications, Match Day, and graduation with my classmates and friends. My excitement grew even more as I entered my third year, but 2020 had other plans. The COVID-19 pandemic has been quite interesting. It changed almost everything and challenged systems that were placed years ago, forcing us to adapt to new ways of doing things, including Match Day preparation.
As COVID-19 cases increase within the United States, I want to do my part in lowering the number of cases. As I go into this application season, I recognize that I have to rearrange and reframe how I go about getting ready for Match Day. For example, the ideal way I would see if a program is a good fit for me involves being physically present in that institution, talking to the faculty, and observing the interactions between the residents. When I ask current residents how they chose their programs, they often say, “You’ll just know,” or,“You just feel it.” They tell me, “Once you’re there for your interview, the weather, the city, the environment, and the residents will all give you a feeling that will let you know if you’re a fit for that specific institution.” Due to the current pandemic, everything has been switched over to Zoom. Informational sessions and interviews are all virtual. The ability to “feel” the atmosphere is out the window. Now I rely more heavily on the residency program websites and word-of-mouth information from other residents and faculty.
There are silver linings to the changes imposed by COVID-19. The transition to virtual communication means I no longer have to worry about the cost of traveling for interviews. I can save the money I would have spent booking hotel rooms, flights, rental cars, and other traveling expenses, and avoid the exhaustion from always being on the go. Instead, I get to stay home and only pay for my residency applications. That, in and of itself, is a huge relief. At the same time, I know a few classmates who are planning to make the most of these circumstances by setting up their rooms with the best video equipment, lighting, cameras, and backgrounds to make their interview experience feel as authentic as possible.
The Alumni Association has done an excellent job adapting to these new changes caused by the pandemic to better help our class. They have offered us the ability to connect with more than 900 alumni who are willing to answer questions concerning each specialty, including residencies and locations. They also offer resume reviews with alumni, mentorship, and residency match resources. Barbara Orr ’70 has gone above and beyond by regularly posting helpful tips on the Alumni Association website to prepare us for Match Day. She also posts podcasts and advice to guide us through this year, which I have found very useful.
Fourth year has been quite interesting. No one saw COVID-19 coming or predicted it escalating to this level. The beautiful thing is, as humans we learn to adapt and evolve in new and unexpected circumstances. Seeing the product of such evolution has amazed me, and I am grateful for the many resources I have to help me evolve as well.