Match Day and graduation embody the culmination of four years of medical school. The former provides insight into the institutions where individuals will complete their residency training. The latter earns medical students the title of doctor. Both exist as significant rites of passage for soon-to-be physicians.
Like most milestone achievements during the pandemic, adjustments were necessary to accommodate social distancing and the virtual world. Indeed, Match Day 2020 (March 20, 2020) was one of the first critical events disrupted in Graduate Medical Education (GME). Medical schools were forced to rapidly adopt the virtual world given restrictions at academic medical centers. Virtual graduation soon followed.
As all aspects of life were disrupted, makeshift celebrations popped up, including Zoom ceremonies and neighborhood drive-bys. Virtual celebrations like the one sponsored by the American Medical Association featured medical celebrities, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, and major characters from medical TV shows. It was medicine’s coordinated attempt to find normalcy in a chaotic world.
And then, in May, the Coalition of Physician Accountability recommended the entire 2020-2021 recruitment process be virtual. And while there is now a light at the tunnel with the distribution of vaccines, Match Day 2021 (March 19) will also occur in a socially distanced environment.
In my role as the CEO of Thalamus, I work daily with over 2,300 residency and fellowship programs, and nearly the entire population of graduating physicians. In finding a silver lining for this year - despite being only the second virtual Match Day in history - the creative spirit in medicine has had time to thrive and flourish, allowing for innovative and unique match celebrations, as traditional gatherings are not currently possible. Here are a few of the most creative ideas:
Cherish the sentimental
Match Day is a proud day for medical students as well as friends and family. And while it can be a very outward celebration, it is also personal, intimate and emotional. In a non-pandemic world, some individuals choose to remove themselves from the celebration and instead learn of their match out in nature, by the beach, in a forest, on a mountain, or any other location that holds sentimental value. Of course, the pandemic certainly affords this opportunity as all of this can be done with social distancing.
However, to be truly creative, one might consider balancing this with taking the time to connect with mentors and colleagues as part of this celebration. We should celebrate ourselves wholeheartedly, but now more than ever, we need each other and our community. Who better to celebrate with than those who supported you along the way?
I recommend contacting your closest mentors and letting them know that Match Day is upcoming. Schedule a time in advance to call or spend some time on Zoom - even if for only a few minutes. I still remember the text messages I got from mentors shortly after my Match in 2012. Tell these individuals what they mean to you. These are the things you’ll remember a decade later. And with the adoption of technology, it has never been easier.
Craft and document your successes
Have you ever driven by a neighbor’s house and seen cardboard signs celebrating a milestone over the last year? I think we all have. It’s an easy win, but Match Day affords even more creative opportunities. Build a map of everywhere you interviewed and get family and friends to wager on where you’ll match (like LeBron James’ decision to take his talents to South Beach, or decision day for an NCAA athlete).
Create a skit on TikTok or document the day on Instagram, Twitter, or other forms of social media. Make a YouTube video as a time capsule. Buy a Cameo from your favorite celebrity. Get your family to join in, or work together to determine a unique method of "opening your envelope." Get creative like engagement proposals, gender reveals or flash mobs. There is no right or wrong way to celebrate your match!
This could mean so many things. Many medical schools have rented out drive-in movie theaters or amphitheaters. Regardless of budget, similar items could be accomplished at a local park.
Run the bases and open your envelope at home plate. Wear your best formal attire and set up a makeshift podium to give the Sally Field "You like me!" Oscar speech. Take a boat out onto the water. Run up the stairs like Rocky and read aloud your match with "Gonna Fly Now" playing in the background. Rewatch "The Queen’s Gambit" and imagine you are a chess world champion. Play some Postmodern Jukebox on YouTube and throw a virtual epic soiree a la "The Great Gatsby." Buy yourself a celebratory present or take part in the amazing #MedGradWishlist drive on social media.
Whatever you do, as Barney Stinson would say: "Make it EPIC!"
In summary, whatever you decide for your Match Day celebration, make it your own. Know that the entire medical profession is rooting for you. We are excited to celebrate you now virtually, and even more excited to celebrate in person when life reaches that new normal. To get to this point, you have all accomplished so much, and this is only the beginning. Congratulations again!
Jason Reminick, MD, MBA, MS is the CEO and Founder of Thalamus (https://thalamusgme.com), the premier cloud-based interview management platform for graduate medical education (GME) training programs. He is passionate about medical innovation, education and technology, with publications in leading medical journals including the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), The Journal of Graduate Medical Education (JGME) and Anesthesia and Analgesia. He matched during a particularly unique recruitment season disrupted by Hurricane Sandy and has been working to innovate the UME to GME transition ever since.