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Pre-Match Reflections from A Fourth-Year Medical Student

Editors’ Note: This week is Match Week, the long-awaited yearly event when graduating medical students across the country learn if they match to a residency program and, if so, where they’ve been accepted. Earlier this week, we heard from a student who matched in January. In this post, we hear from a student gripped by suspense over results at tomorrow’s March 20 Match Day ceremony.

As medical students, we traverse a dynamic boundary between the world of laypeople and “medical people”. We learn a new language, a new body of knowledge, a new skill set; we gain new perspectives on life’s milestones—how children are born, the meaning of sickness, what happens in hospitals and how people pass at the end of their lives. As our class is about to match into residency, graduate from medical school in a few short months and transition from medical students to physicians, it seems appropriate to reflect on this transformation.

Pediatrician examines childEinstein’s Value System
I entered medical school with a background in social justice and advocacy, eager to combine the knowledge I had gained working for antipoverty organizations with my interest in science and medicine. With its rich history in social medicine—its dedication to training compassionate and caring physicians and working in communities where good healthcare is needed the most—Albert Einstein College of Medicine seemed the place for me. Four years later, I can say I have not been disappointed.

I found strong allies and resources at Einstein while developing and participating in PACt (Patient Advocate Connection), a program pairing patients with chronic disease and students as their health advocates. My classmates and I were profoundly affected by the relationships we developed with our patients. Together, we gained a new understanding of the healthcare system through the eyes of patients living in the Bronx. The experience affirmed my goal of positive community involvement as a physician, and has shaped my interest in effecting future systemic change in our healthcare delivery systems.

Lessons Outside Class
Supplemental experiences outside the classroom and clerkships have been extraordinary, from Healer’s Art and Street Medic training to the Social Medicine course and Medical Spanish electives, including travel to Guatemala during a summer. I’ve had the opportunity to visit with administrators of the Montefiore Care Management Organization, which manages the care of more than 200,000 patients. I’ve also been involved in helping reshape the way funding and support work for community-based student groups by advocating for the creation of the current Community-Based Service Learning Center. As a fourth year, under the guidance of Jerry Paccione and fabulous primary care and social internal medicine residents, I have deepened my knowledge of the physical exam and diagnosis while also delivering healthcare in the low-resource setting of southwest Uganda.

Ready to Apply What I’ve Learned
Of course, I’ve learned an enormous amount of medicine at Einstein from patients in the clinical setting. As third years, my classmates and I participated in collegial academic and evidence-based discussions on rounds and began taking responsibility for serving as intermediaries between medical knowledge and our patients. As fourth years, we found that each day brought unexpected challenges, and I learned the importance of flexibility and creativity in tackling new problems. I got a sense of how hard work and long hours in the hospital could be rewarding.

Some moments were joyful, such as watching a child who yesterday was gasping for air run down the hallway, or taking a break from note-writing to share chocolate ice cream with a patient who was previously refusing to eat. Others were inevitably disappointing or sad, and I came to understand that a physician’s job is also to bear witness to those difficult moments. These patient interactions were reminders of the trust placed in us and of our responsibility as future physicians.

The strong foundation I received at Einstein really resonated as I travelled around the country describing my experiences during interviews and then carefully considered what kind of training I was seeking for residency. Einstein allowed me to develop ideals for how I want to practice as a physician. The Match brings us one step closer to becoming “medical people,” but I know we will each build on a solid foundation in humanism from Einstein as we go forth in our careers.

Good luck in the Match, Class of 2015!

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  • David Milstein April 1, 2015, 1:19 PM

    Your piece gives me pride in my alma mater. I wish you the best in your next phase of training and for a productive, rewarding career in medicine.