Keep reading! Your education is just beginning.
-Letter from my program director
In the wake of Match Day bliss (or agony), it’s safe to say it was the most emotionally charged day of my 4 years in medical school. I’m still coming down from the high, despite that it was over a week and a half ago.
I’m lucky enough to have matched at my #2 program (and in all honesty, it should have been put as my #1. The charm of Minneapolis won out on my rank list, even though it was so very clear that St. Louis was a much better fit ) at Saint Louis University as a categorical general surgery resident. Opening that letter brought a tsunami of both joy and relief. I can’t remember a time when I had a higher level of anxiety (okay that’s a lie, I was arguably as anxious the night before I took STEP 1. Still, that’s prrrrrrretty high).
I’m thrilled that I am joining a program with equal parts grit, camaraderie, fun, and excellence. I’ll elaborate on my love for SLU (the funky abbreviation people use for the institution, pronounced phonetically as “slew“) at a later time when I go into more about the interview trail. It was my first interview of the entire season, and the residents there held the title of “my favorite group of residents I met”, with the University of Rochester coming in at #2. I joked that they were the “hilarious, sarcastic people I need in my life“. I mean that in a 100% loving way, and I felt like I fit in with them and my fellow interviewees there from minute 0.
I received a letter from my program director (I don’t even have to say the word future anymore, I’m actually IN!) that encouraged us to prepare for our upcoming intern year because it isn’t going to be easy. Among the tips are to keep (or in my case, start) reading surgical textbooks and literature and practicing our technical skills. I chuckled a little bit as I first read it, but then had the sobering thought that I would be starting my first day of intern year in a little over 3 months. Woah.
As a sidebar (metaphorically, since it’s still in line with the rest of this post. Shhhh), my roommate and I had a fun laugh about the difference in surgical residency versus pediatrics (he matched at his #1 choice in peds), He got a letter talking about enjoying his time and taking vacations before residency, while I got one about practicing to hit the ground running. Different strokes for different folks, indeed.
This was a reminder that despite the gigantic amount of free time and screwing around I’ve had the pleasure of doing the past few months, reality is approaching. And it’s like that scene in Kung Pow where the Chosen One is running, where it doesn’t seem to be getting closer until all of a sudden it’s July 1st in a flash.
Now, all of the fun and games are (mostly) over. I’m going to be…a doctor. Those words still sound foreign, and it’s pretty scary to read “Dr. Wojcik” as the salutation in the letter I received. While I’ve still got a month and a half to hide from that, provided I don’t have some disaster in the next 6 weeks, I’m going to have the letters “MD” plastered after my name for eternity. That is equal parts exciting and terrifying.
I’m going to have responsibility for patients, people are going to think of me as their doctor, and I will have the ability to make real medical errors. Not only can I make someone feel better, I could also screw up and hurt them. While I’ve been learning for a long 4 years, the vast unknown ocean of real learning sits just beyond the horizon. Residency is where you actually learn to be a physician.
As we were sitting and playing Settlers of Catan a few nights ago, one of my classmates asked me if I would try dating intern year. I responded with a laugh and a, “I can barely take care of myself now!”. What I was getting at is I want to be fully locked-in to residency, as the momentum I build intern year will carry me through residency for better or worse. I doubt I’ll have the mental capacity or time for dating. Then she made a joke about, “Isn’t all you do eat out pizza every night?”
I guess my secret got out. Point is, I really got into super-lazy-slacker-mode through interview season. Now normally I cook very frequently with a wide variety of dishes, take care of myself, and keep an apartment cleaner than I’d venture 95% of guys do, but I have been slacking recently. I was a little hurt by her comment. Not because of her saying it, but because I have been unhappy with my state of being. I used to be so much better about exercise, sleep, and all the traditional “taking care of myself” metrics, but I’ve let the stress of medical school be an excuse to be lazy now that I have a break. Fact is, I’m not going to get a break like this again until retirement. Life gets pretty crazy from here on out. This train stops for nothing.
I want to go into residency well-balanced, well-oiled, and tuned up to succeed. I need to get back to exercising 5-6 days/week, avoiding frequent take-out food, probably lose 10 pounds, and find my way back into the confessional and going to church every week. It’s non-negotiable that I need to practice my suturing and get myself a good resident-level surgery textbook to read up on. The time is now; I only get one shot at starting residency off the right way.
I was on Reddit earlier this week and came across one of the many gems I have during my years there, and this one was a trick one user used. He (or she, although I’m not sure, it’s statistically much more likely to have been a male considering the site’s user base) said that whenever he doesn’t want to do something or needs motivation, he counts down. When he hits 0, he has to do that thing, no matter what. He has conditioned himself to respond to this in a way that is not optional. When that countdown hits 0 (his starts at 6), he has to go. Whether that is starting a run, getting off the couch, or any other task. I like this so much that I’m going to adopt it. It only works as well as you let it, and if you are lax in it’s application (i.e. not moving when it hits 0), it won’t work.
I’m ready to build up speed going into residency. While I’m sure our trip to Bloomington this weekend to relive our first two years of medical school might slightly derail that, I can’t go a week without exercising again. That’s simply unacceptable. I want to be strong going into this journey. If I’m not, I’m going to be eaten alive. You wouldn’t start a marathon without training beforehand, right?
I’ve decided that my magic number to start with is 5. So, on that note…
I’m going to start by going to sleep. Tomorrow is day 1 of non-zero days.
This posts’s song is Acid Rain by Lorn. It’s pretty trippy but fits my mood now. The video is a little weird, just warning you.
Be on the lookout, my next post will be about all I learned on the interview trail, as long as some tips and tricks for those of you interviewing next year.