Schrödinger’s Residency Application: Reflecting on My Life as a Student

Daniel Ortiz, M4, Class of 2020

Two interviews in and I feel like I’m saying too much and getting it all wrong. They’re going to hate my scores. What if they don’t like my answers? Why am I so anxious? I just want this to be the right place for me. This might sound like that time we all applied to medical school, but I’m referring to residency interviews as a fourth-year medical student.

I really can’t formulate an opinion one way or the other whether this process needs major improvements (it does) or if our program decisions affect the outcome (they do) and the resultant matches. When I think about my first year of medical school, and the distant dream that was Step 1— which is now happily a distant memory for my cohort— it’s hard to imagine that there could be anything more stressful than applying for a job after medical school. I would actually prefer to watch my kids while performing complicated procedures than continue with the boundless anxiety that comes with interviewing.

But it’ll be okay. We’re all freaking out here, and I’m trying my hardest to lift everyone up, including myself, the best I can. After going through the loss of a pregnancy, a stepfather, and countless times almost falling short of bill money for a month (and working intermittently to make ends meet), I really can’t say I would have lived medical school differently.

What I can say is that pouring 100% of yourself into medical school is a mistake. It’s unsustainable. You can pour yourself into your studies and do your best, you can pour yourself into preparing for patient presentations and improving your progress notes, and I would encourage you to, but leave a percentage of that medical student A-type behavior on the side and allow yourself to be a person first. You have an entire lifetime to improve upon your mistakes (and there will be many). Your drive to be a perfectionist is what landed you this gig in the first place, and that drive isn’t going anywhere any time soon.

You only have four years to make it count before residency. And believe me, as a person who is about to round 39-years old, you want to make those years count because you will not get them back. I think watching Avengers gave me the greatest insight I could impart – the measure of our tenacity to serve and dedicate ourselves is based on how we succeed at being who we are.

So be you. The rest will fall into place. It always does.

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