Match Day has arrived and this year we unfortunately are faced with the unusual situation of COVID-19 which has impacted the traditional celebrations we are accustomed to. While there are undoubtedly a gamut of emotions coursing through our fourth year medical students today, we hope that a tremendous sense of accomplishment prevails over trepidation or angst. With that being said, we recognize that anger and fear are potentially surfacing and wanted to share a perspective of a fellow student to let you know, if you are feeling this way too, you are not alone. We wish all of our students success and the best of luck on their new endeavors. As always thank you for your dedication and sacrifice.
I am angry. As I sit here on the eve of Match Day, March 20, the day I have looked forward to for the better part of a decade, I am angry. Of all the emotions I thought I would feel today, anger wasn’t one of them. Anxiety, excitement, joy—these were the emotions I thought would dominate my mind the day before Match Day. And although they are present, the overwhelming emotion I feel is anger. I am angry because this post-Match time was supposed to be the promised land of fourth year—the land of electives, free time, and travel. The land of Match Day brunches and graduation parties. The land where we have made it through the hardest part of medical school and get to bask in the glow of our achievements for a little while. Well, all of that has been canceled. The promised land has been taken away. It has been taken away by a giant jerk they call COVID-19.
I am angry. But behind that anger, there is also fear. I am scared because I am about to be a doctor. I am about to be the one people look to for guidance and leadership in these uncertain times. I am about to be called upon to start intern year early and join the frontlines of this fight. All I’ve ever wanted is to be a doctor, but I can’t help but ask myself, “Am I ready? Am I ready to be thrown into this?” Because when the pandemic reaches full swing in whatever city I match into, there will be no one holding my hand. I will have to make decisions I don’t feel ready to make. I’ve always known that making tough decisions would be a big part of intern year, but for our intern class, it seems to be approaching faster than ever. On top of all that, in joining the frontlines, I will likely be exposed to a disease that could kill me. And I am scared.
I am angry and scared, and none of this is fair. But then I think back to the patients and the families I have cared for during medical school. I think back to the teenage girl with cancer getting her first chemo infusion, the mom of the girl in a coma for weeks, the man about to lose his leg. As it turns out, life is not fair. It’s okay for me to be angry and scared. I am human. But as a doctor, I get to help people going through unimaginably difficult situations feel a little better. What a privilege that is! I remind myself that the honor of being able to help others in their gravest time of need is why we all went to medical school. We didn’t do it for the Match Day brunches or the graduation parties. We did it for the patients, and we have to be brave for them.
So, tomorrow I’ll celebrate (with less than ten family members, all six feet apart), and I’ll remind myself to be grateful for the adventure on which I am about to embark. I’ll remind myself that I am about to fulfill my dreams and become Dr. Rowe. But after the celebration is over, I’ll spend the little time I have left before reporting for duty as an intern brushing up on ICU care protocols. I’ll quiz myself on pulmonology and critical care concepts in my pajamas on the couch. Because we are on the eve of battle, and I owe it to my patients to be ready to fight for them as best as I can.
My last year of medical school might not end the way I thought it would, but no matter what happens, my career will start the way it was always meant to—helping patients, no matter the cost.
Kelsey Rowe is an MD/MBA student at Saint Louis University School of Medicine and Richard A. Chaifetz School of Business. She will graduate from medical school in 2020 and will begin a pediatric residency. She has published research related to herpes vaccine development and is the author of Vax-Force, a children’s book that explains how vaccines work. Kelsey is originally from Topeka, Kansas. She enjoys running, painting, and far too much coffee.