Thursday, April 7, 2016

Dr. Thinker: My journey

I am sharing my story mainly for those who go unmatched or thinking of giving up at
every hurdle that comes in the USMLE path. I didn't match at my first attempt, too. We may not
have the same problems overall, but I totally understand what you would be going through. I
didn’t have any financial troubles ( thanks to my parents and brother), but emotionally it was a
nightmare until Mar 14, 2016, considering the fact that even my family wouldn't have been
happier with me giving it an another try( can't blame them).

Journey: We think we need some help or seniors for securing electives and all. In reality- it’s
just an excuse we give ourselves. Of course, having them will make it easy, but not having them
isn’t the end. I did it all by myself with the help of google. That's one reason I keep answering
queries on usmle pages, as not everyone has someone to back to them up. Remember -
Contacts don't just happen for everyone, you make them!!

I started with applying for electives at Yale, Weil cornel, Northwestern and John Hopkins as
these were the ones that gave electives then without asking for scores. I didn’t have any help
except the company of a friend who is on the same boat. I got Radiology elective at Yale, Weil
cornel and northwestern as IM was full. So, I only accepted Yale thinking I can try from IM once
I go there. Did 1 month in Radio used to go their ER even in midnight, developed good rapport
with all attending (so good that I taught them about cricket and showed videos on youtube in
free time) Then secured another month in Cardio. Gave my STEP2CS and came back to India.
While my rotations at Yale I emailed tons of doctors at Yale asking for appointments so that I
can try for electives in the future. After sending 100s of such emails, I could meet few of them
and one worked out. So, I secured my future Observerships before I came back to India. I also
called a couple of other universities and hospitals in the US everyday and got a couple of more
electives, but couldn’t do them due to other reasons. I came to India gave step1 - got 245. I
couldn’t give other exams in time due to various reasons. So, delayed my ck until the residency
application time in 2014. As promised earlier, one of the attendings at Yale offered me an
Observership in Aug 2014 with no time limit. I came to the US, but because of spending more
than 12 hours in the hospital I couldn’t finish reading ck properly and postponed it till Sept 2nd
week. I finally gave it and my results came in Oct 2nd week. It was 229. It’s a disaster. But, it
was my fault. So, can’t blame anyone but me. In the mean time I again emailed many
attendings and started meeting them for research/obsie ipportunities and could get another 2
months in another subspecialty (only 2 months, as I already secured an Obsie for Dec
elsewhere). I applied in Oct 3rd week and the 1st iv I got was on Nov 7th. When I sent them an
email 2-3 days later asking for interview day itinerary, they replied saying sorry you are not on
the list and we sent it by mistake!! The email which first gave me hope now shattered me. I
wanted to send them a disappointed email, but instead sent them an email in a polite way
saying I understand it’s in human nature to err and so no worries. Also, I said please go through
my application now and see if I am eligible. The PC forwarded my application to PD and he gave
me an iv. In the next 3 days I got 3 more ivs. In December, I went for an obsie at Allegheny
thinking they would give an iv if i do an obsie there. But, the day before I left for Allegheny they
sent me a rejection! I wanted to cancel it but I already paid for it. So, just went there because I
knew if not anything I can make some useful contacts. Allegheny PC usually say they won’t give
LOR, but i was able to get one from the GI Fellowship director. Then I didn’t try for any obsies
after it for Jan and feb. I got one more iv in dec. I had to go back to India by the end of Jan. But
expecting last minute cancellations in Feb, I came back from India within a week. I had very
good feedback from the places I interviewed at. It wasn’t generic and I thought i could match.
But, it turned out that I would go unmatched. I was of course in depression, but the second I
got to know I didn’t match I emailed the doctors that interviewed me asking for obsie/ research
opportunities. I also emailed 100 other places.
March 2015: On 16th I got to know I didn’t match, tried for soap and on 20th it was confirmed
that I will remain unmatched. But, by 23rd match I almost got myself a research position
secured at MD Anderson Cancer center. It wasn’t through contacts. It was just one of those
100s of emails I sent out. The attending had asked me to come to Houston for the interview,
but I said I won’t be able to and instead requested for a phone iv. He agreed, we talked over
phone, I showed interest. He later emailed me that he won’t be able to offer me the position as
it is unpaid and so he wouldn’t feel good if I come all the way to Houston just for this. Over the
next series of emails, I convinced him that I will manage the logistics. He agreed for it in April
and started the paperwork. Not knowing, how this might turn out I reached out to other places
also and by march end I had already secured an obsie at Yale again for the month of May, at
Albert einstein for June and at UAB for July. Also, in the meanwhile I gave my step3 in April.
Since I have these, I postponed my research start date till Sep 2015. I applied for the match on
sep 15 this time. I had to go back to India at the end of July 2015 as my 6 months visa expired. I
came back in Sept, started research around Sep 2nd week. Initially, my attending at MD
anderson wasn’t helpful, the first interaction I had was harsh and I felt bad for the first couple
of weeks. The first in person interaction I had with my attending was on day3. He just walked
into the room and started talking to me. His very first word - "If you are hear for LORS or any
help, just give me your badge and walk away right now". He went on for 10 mins saying things
like this. I was shocked and felt bad. I had already worked 28 hours total in the 1st two days and
finished a work which was expected to be finished in 2 weeks. More surprisingly, my fellow who
saw it all didn’t even utter a single word. I was more disappointed with my fellow. It went on
for a couple of weeks. Except for a couple of friends I couldn't even share it with my family (as
they were already enough worried about my match!). In the same time, people including my co
research intern were getting interviews, but I didn’t. It scared me to hell. What if I don’t match
again? What if I don’t even get interviews? I was afraid to have spare time as I would keep
thinking about all these. I ended up spending almost 16 hours at research sometimes, until
midnight. My first iv came at the end of Sept and within a week I had 8 iv calls. I ended up with
11. Finally, I could take a load off. I continued to work the same way for my attending. By
midway, my attending was so impressed that he used to say at least twice a day that " he is
very glad that I came to work with him even though he didn’t agree initially". He started
complimenting almost every day and we ended up building a very good rapport. He didn’t even
mind a second when I had to travel most of the Nov, dec and Jan for ivs. I didn’t ask him for any
LOR, thinking if he likes me he will help somehow. I am glad i took this research as I had
something to talk during the ivs. We submitted 3 abstracts for major GI conference and three
are accepted on Feb 16. My attending had volunteered to put in a good word for me and I was
the happiest then. I didn’t even dream that it would turn out like this. I finished my research
work in Feb and came to India. All the emotions from last year failure were running through my
mind until March 13 - 8:26 pm, when the happiest news of the lifetime had come 4 minutes
early! I matched. I wasn’t jumping in joy, I wasn’t elated. More than anything, I just felt
relieved. I matched into my first choice program!
The journey had been crushing, but was fruitful too. Met so many people from different
countries and made so many friends.
PS: Most of the hospitals don’t offer Obsies as per their official policy. But, I tried emailing
attendings and it worked out. So, don't leave any place. Just, keep trying.
One advice: Don’t GIVE UP.

 RAJA CHANDRA

5 comments:

  1. That is inspiring
    THANKS

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You are welcome. Good luck! And, don't forget to share your success story :)

      Delete
  2. Wow! One hell of a journey..Respect!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Your post is so detailed
    Thanks a ton :D

    ReplyDelete

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