The first thing I did after not matching and deciding to focus on entering the Match for a second time the following year was get a mentor.
You are probably thinking to yourself, “How does one go about doing that?”
Well, because I was vocal about not matching on social media platforms, I was connected to a Latino physician whose mission is to create pipelines for young Latinx to enter medical school, residency, and faculty positions. If you have a social media account, use that to your advantage! You can find so many physicians who are willing to help. If you are on Twitter, follow the hashtag #medtwitter. If you are on Instagram, follow the following accounts: @latinxenmedicina, @wokedoctors, @insidethematch, and @projectdiversifymedicine. Within these accounts, you can look for a mentor or at the very least find leads.
My mentor runs a free street clinic that serves unhoused individuals, uninsured patients, and people who struggle with substance abuse. I was hired to work at this clinic and my coworkers and I would set up shop once a week on the sidewalk of busy streets to treat people. I learned how to do wound care, treat STD’s, treat untreated diabetes and hypertension, and so much more. Most importantly, I learned the needs of this community and met them where they were. I never shamed them or scolded them; I just treated them with kindness and respect, and was able to gain their trust. This is how I was able to gain both clinical and life experience!
Second, when it came time to write my personal statement again for residency applications, I wrote about my experience growing up as a first-generation American and first-generation college student and how that translated into the type of physician I want to be. I also discussed how working with urban underserved populations was something I wanted to pursue in my career after the experiences I had in the street medicine clinic. I only had two people read it: my mentor and my partner who is also a doctor. My advice is that when you have too many people read your personal statement, you receive too much feedback and it makes you confused on what to edit in and out. Choose a few editors who know you well and understand the application process.
Third, I chose to apply to only family medicine residencies. Previously, I had applied to both internal medicine and family medicine. Looking back, that was a terrible mistake because my personal statement was not strong, my letters of recommendation were not good, and by applying to two different specialties, I limited myself to the programs I applied to. By choosing one specialty to apply into, you display your commitment to that specific specialty, increasing your chances of receiving more interviews and thus programs to rank.
Fourth, I applied widely. The first time I applied, I applied primarily on the west coast and to a couple of major metropolitan cities around the United States. I completely limited myself. The second time around, I applied throughout the United States and received nine more interviews than the previous year!
Fifth, I was honest during my interviews about not matching during the previous cycle. Every single interviewer said they appreciated the honesty and applauded my resiliency! I believe this was key in me matching to the program I ended up matching to!
Sixth, I knew exactly what I wanted from a program. When it came time to rank the programs, I ranked them based on whether they served underserved populations, had a diverse program, and had opportunities for me to eventually lead. But I am not going to lie; I had interviews at some very well-known programs in family medicine and I felt the imposter syndrome creep in when making my rank list. I thought “these programs don’t really want me,” but my mentor told me that I had a lot to offer and that YES, those programs do want you! That made me feel a lot better.
I patiently waited after submitting my rank list for the results. When I opened that dreaded email it said: Congratulations, you have matched!
I was in disbelief. The person who one year ago had not matched, unsuccessfully SOAPed, and went on countless dead-end interviews had matched. It proved to me that, in a matter of months, you can really turn things around with a little bit of perseverance, an amazing support system, and a lot of faith.
I hope that my story and this information has been helpful and has given some of you insight on what happens after you don’t Match. It may seem like everything you’ve done has been for nothing, but trust me when I tell you that this is all part of your journey for a reason.