Yesterday was Match Day, and it’s official: Dev and I are moving to Alaska!
For those who haven’t been endlessly immersed and obsessed with the buildup to the Match for the past several months like I have, here’s a quick primer.
Throughout the winter of their fourth year, med students apply to and visit the programs of their choice for a pretty involved interview process. By early February, each student submits a ranked list of her top-choice programs. Residencies also file ranked lists of the applicants they’ve interviewed. The National Resident Matching Program then runs an algorithm assigning new residents to programs such that there is no (non-matching) applicant A and hospital H such that both of the following are true: A would rather be at H than where she matched, and H would rather have A than someone they got (thanks, Wikipedia!). This year’s Match was the largest ever, with 42,370 applicants competing for 30,750 positions (thanks, Google!).
So the NRMP applies this algorithm after the rank lists come in in February, and then they sit on the information until the third Friday in March because they are sadists. The Monday before Match Day, they let applicants know IF they matched (but not where) so the can “scramble” to snatch up unclaimed spots through the Supplemental Offer and Acceptance Program (SOAP). That’s why you may have have noticed a lot of screenshots of this email from relieved med students on the internet this week:
You may also notice that Dev has a very organized inbox. Mine looks like this:
The email says to check online at 1 PM Eastern, but in reality, most residents-to-be find out their fates an hour earlier than that at Match Day ceremonies hosted by their med schools. My dad called me late Thursday night to wish us luck and reminisce about his own Match Day memories from thirty-two years ago. It’s a super important and memorable moment in a doctor’s life. But I had no idea just how memorable Dev’s Match Day story would be. Because, as it turns out, the NRMP masterminds are not the only wicked puppeteers pulling the delicate strings of people’s hearts—UCLA has a cadre of sadists all its own.
Before I get into that particular devilry, a little background: Dev visited Anchorage in late November and was completely blown away by the program and the place.
What’s not to love?
She immediately decided to rank it first. While her second choice was an excellent program with unsurpassed procedural preparation for a rural doctor, well, only Alaska is Alaska. So once we started scheming and dreaming about living there and the adventure that would be, all our eggs were very much at home in one big, precarious basket. We invested in puffy winter coats. We gave each other books. I BOUGHT FREAKIN SNOWSHOES.
In line for the REI Garage Sale.
Reason for return: “Wore once. Flung snow everywhere.”
When Match Day came, I could barely wait. I’d been having stress dreams for a week about matching to a Southern California program and never getting to experience a long winter full of 18-hour nights. What future would the envelope decree? Of course, matching is Dev’s big accomplishment, and she has tons of loved ones who have been supporting her on this journey a lot longer and more intensively than I have. But ever since I decided to move with her for residency, March 18th has loomed just as large for me . And I wanted to get to fling some snow with my flipping snowshoes! And not for the first time, I felt a particular helplessness knowing such a big life moment was happening 2,585 miles away (thanks, Tinder!) in a way I could only virtually and peripherally participate in. But Dev was really great about sending me updates as the big reveal drew near. So did some of my other med school friends, like Tiffany across town at Brown!
Dev was cool and confident, and had an awesome posse to boot. And my eternal optimist had actually been having good dreams, the kind where she opened the envelope and matched to Alaska.
Then I got a text: “There’s no pin on the Alaska on the map.” And everything inside me sank. And I really, really wished I didn’t have those flingy snowshoes in my closet.
Dev was talking about this map, from which, as it turns out, the event organizers and supervising dean had intentionally omitted her pin so she could open her letter and get a surprise.
The floating yellow pushpin has still not been explained to my satisfaction.
That’s right. They did it on purpose. Because they are mean. And mischievous. And incredibly sweet.
And dreams do come true.
Huge, huge, huge thank you to Patrick for this wonderful video and for being the first to give me the good news!