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The Match, The Scramble, The Residency

By Ashley Duty posted 04-04-2012 15:12

While Cleveland (my hometown) is historically known for The Drive, The Fumble, The Shot, and most recently The Decision, I thought I would discuss my most recent experience with The Match, The Scramble, and The Residency.

If you know me at all, you know I've been talking about doing a health-system pharmacy administration (HSPA) residency since 2009. This was the summer I spent as an intern at The Johns Hopkins Hospital and was, for the first time, exposed to what HSPA residents do with their time in the health-system and in the classroom. I did my homework for the next 2 years to prepare for the Match process. I attended 3 Midyear Clinical Meetings and 2 Summer Meetings and tried to meet as many people as I could who would shape my progress in a positive way.

I turned in 9 applications this year and received only 4 interviews. This was a little discouraging to start with, but I had to move forward. I was given good advice from a mentor who told me: They did you a favor by determining that you weren't the right fit. It saved you money. This was quite true. When it came time to submit my rank list, I submitted all 4. Looking back now, I should have only ranked 2 of them. My nerves got the best of me because I had decided it was better to match anywhere than nowhere at all. After everything I've learned about the residency application process, this was my biggest error in judgement. If you think you're questioning a site, don't ignore it and rank it anyway.

On March 21st, 2012 I got an email from the National Matching Service (NMS) and all it said was: We regret to inform you that you did not match to a position. Seriously? All that work and I didn't match? Luckily I had taken the day off from rotation and had time to process what this meant. The time span from 8:42AM (when I got the email) until noon (when unmatched residency positions are posted) was not fun. There were many tears shed while on the phone with my Mom, Dad, Stepmom, best friend (who also didn't match), etc. They all kept telling me: it wasn't meant to be... something I didn't want to hear.

At noon I jumped on to the NMS website to look at the unmatched list and the numbers weren't in my favor. There were only 5 unmatched positions for HSPA residencies. I emailed and called the first few right away. Sent my CV and a general letter of intent. My phone calls were brief, but mostly just stated that I hadn't matched and I was sending my information over ASAP. At about 12:15PM I got a phone call from Scott Knoer about the Cleveland Clinic's unmatched HSPA positions. At first I didn't believe it. The Cleveland Clinic was somewhere I hadn't applied because it was a new program and I knew tons of students were interested. Plus, my initial thought was it was too close to home. Before I knew it, I had accepted an interview with them the next day. I was lucky enough to have a flexible preceptor who understood what I needed to do.

As I prepared for my 30 minute interview I realized that I had to sell myself fast to get one of their positions. I tried to be as upfront, to the point, and honest as I could be. I made sure they knew I was going to work harder at residency than I had ever worked in my life. I made sure they knew I was committed and goal oriented. My interview was unbelievable and by the next day, I had a residency offer!

Maybe things do happen for a reason (all religious implications aside). Remember how I said my best friend didn't match? Well, she scrambled and found an awesome PGY1 at Borgess Medical Center in Kalamazoo, Michigan and she couldn't be happier. Looking back she's realized that she didn't like any of the 3 places she ended up ranking and she is SO glad she didn't match. Ironic, right?

So with this, I live advice to future residency candidates:
  1. Don't doubt your gut... and I really mean that. If you have the slightest ounce of doubt, really think about what that means. No programs are perfect, but the one for you will get you REALLY excited.
  2. Be optimistic and calm your nerves. Remember, things happen for a reason.
  3. Be honest. I think I spent too much time trying to figure out what my interview panels wanted to hear instead of what I actually thought. This was to my detriment because I didn't show my true colors.
  4. When it comes to scrambling, be quick and persistent. My best friend had sent her CV to the program contact but when she called again the next day, they told her that person was out sick and to send it to someone else. Good thing she double checked!
  5. At the same time, don't be annoying!
  6. Accept any interview offer you can get during the scramble. You never know what's going to be a good fit.
  7. Realize there is a challenge to phone interviews and that you won't get the full experience that you did at other interviews.
  8. Keep family and friends in the loop so they can help emotionally support you during a stressful time.

Congrats to everyone, especially my friends and ONU classmates, who got a residency this year. Best of luck to next year's candidates!




05-10-2012 15:35

Ashley: Yours is one of the best blogs I have seen on ASHP Connect. I am certain you will be an outstanding resident, and one of the best Cleveland Clinic will ever have! I hope you have an excellent PGY1 year.

05-09-2012 21:04

Great blog Ashley. I had the honor of being the resident of a new 2 year administration program and think your in great hands with Scott. As the first resident your next two years will be full of ups and downs but it sounds like you have a great head on your shoulders and your positivity will take you far. Good luck with your residency and enjoy your journey over the next two years.

04-24-2012 14:05

Great perspective, Ashley! Sometimes individuals get so disappointed about the results, but really, you never know what else lies out there! Looking forward to seeing you soon!

04-10-2012 06:42

Ashley, I'm so glad you took the time to share you experiences. Many others obviously empathize and appreciate your openness and willingness to pass along “lessons learned.” I hope as you progress through your program (and beyond) that you continue to blog about your journey.

04-08-2012 20:32

First, thank you for this post. Not only is this a post for residency applicants, but also for all of us as we experience transitions in life and may/will not always get that which we desire most. Second, I want to re-emphasize how important #2 and #8 are in your life journey, both personal and professional. I commend you for your early insight into how everything happens for a reason. As a pharmacy resident, you will hit the highs and lows of the residency roller coaster. #2 is some advice that I simmer on rather regularly. Finally, family and friends will be your rock during these intense two years AND beyond. I hope that everyone reads this blog as it is filled with great life advice for us all. Best of luck on your upcoming graduation!

04-05-2012 21:58

Ashley, I commend how you managed to think logically and calmly in a rather stressful situation. While several of my friends did not match and were unable to find suitable post-match positions, it is encouraging to know that it is possible and all works out for the best. Good luck on your residency!

04-05-2012 17:02

These are some very awesome words of encouragement for those who endured the scramble, even for those people who are applying for jobs. You may not get the offer that you want when you want it, or one at all, but things will work out eventually for the best if you're patient and persistent!

04-05-2012 10:52

Ashley, this is wonderful insight and so important for those looking at the statistics and counting themselves as failing before they even try. Additionally, I couldn't agree more with your point number 1; knowing who are, what you truly want from your residency, and your vision for the profession will allow you to feel comfortable following your instincts.
I, obviously, am biased having completed my HPSA with Dr. Knoer when he restarted the program in Minnesota, but I think you are in for a great two years! The Cleveland Clinic offers a strong clinical foundation and the mentorship you will find in Scott is unmatched.
Thank you for sharing your experience. I hope others find it helpful!

04-05-2012 08:14

Thanks for sharing your story Ashley! I personally got goosbumps while reading. I am a firm believer that "everything happens for a reason" and you were meant to be at the Cleveland Clinic (and they are lucky to have you)!

04-04-2012 15:57

Good information Ashley! It sure is very important for the future applicants to learn about this process. As we all say, everything happens for a reason :)