Mar 20, 2015

The Match, The SOAP, and the Reality of being an IMG (Part 2 update)

So, here we are, Match Day 2015.  Can it really be that it has already been a year since Match Day 2014, the day that inspired this ORIGINIAL post?  That post has become far and away my most read post on this blog to date.  I find it both humbling and heartbreaking that so many have found their way to my blog and either felt sorry for our story or inspired by it.

The post has been linked on other medical blogs and has been referenced in multiple forums on Student Doctor Net throughout the last year.  And because I can trace where my page views are coming from, I have seen the comments on those forums and blogs and I have to say, I have had moments where I felt very discouraged.  I realize that those that comment have neither been in our exact position, nor do they know Josh personally, and they are attempting to give a full (albeit harsh) picture of what not matching or perhaps WORSE in their eyes, matching into a prelim position means.  I've read things like "prelim positions are dead end positions," "he will never get a categorical position," "he will be worked to death and will not be respected as a prelim," and one of my personal favorites, after not getting into an American Medical School, "he should do something else and get on with life."

I have one thing to tell all the naysayers and the same thing to tell all those discouraged and disheartened about their Match success or lack their of, especially the IMG's.

Josh Matched Categorical General Surgery at the University of Massachusetts.

It pains me to say that THERE IS NO MAGICAL FORMULA to matching into categorical general surgery as a preliminary resident. Nor is there any perfect outline for finding a spot during SOAP or after.  There have been so many readers who have commented on my blog post and asked me to email you personally to answer your questions.  There have been readers who have tracked me down on Facebook or through my Etsy shop to ask questions about what we did and I understand, I really do.  You are grasping at straws here.  I understand the heartbreak you are going through after not Matching and I know the stress you have felt after not SOAPing.

What I am going to write here is what WE did and what worked for US but I know that our story is a combination of hardwork, determination, prayer, and luck.  Honestly, we needed all four of those components for this to work.  While I think that Josh is the perfect package for a surgical residency program, there was definitely an X-factor at work here.

This past year:

Joshua knew from day one as a preliminary resident that he would have to hit the ground running in his program.  First impressions are important but so are long term impressions.  He knew he couldn't start out strong in July and then begin to teeter off in the coming months.  It is a marathon not a sprint.  What you have to understand about Josh is that he is a very outgoing, competent, and  confident man as well as a natural leader.  It's possible that he thrives more under pressure than anywhere else so when he knows he has to go all-in, he does.   What you have to understand about the surgery program at UMass is that they don't treat their prelims differently than their categorical residents.  Joshua was in surgery regularly alongside attendings and the Program Director.  I'm certain that there are preliminary programs out there where this would not be the case, but Josh got lucky because he was at a program that would give him the chance to get noticed.

He got 4 entirely new letters of recommendation, three from surgical attendings he worked with during the first two months at UMass and one from the Program Director.  We believe this was key in him getting 5 interviews this year.  His test scores (Step 1: 232, Step 2: 235) and grades (graduating GPA: 3.7ish, Basic science GPA: 3.4ish) hadn't changed, if anything, he was at a disadvantage having been out of school for a year.  But we feel his new LOR's were EXTREMELY strong and so they were able to boost his application.

He was also asked to be on a committee for resident education at UMass as one of two PGY1 representatives.  We were surprised that even though he was a preliminary resident, he was given this task.  During the fall, he competed on a 3 person team comprised of one 5th year, one mid-level, and one intern in a "surgical olympics" type competition between other surgical residency programs on the East Coast.  UMass's team came in 2nd place and I feel Josh shined during that competition.  He showed confidence in himself and his surgical skills as well as pride in his program.  All of these things may not have determined his ability to obtain a categorical position, but I feel that getting your name and face out there within your program, especially if you are a prelim is of the utmost importance!  In other words, getting involved in these type of opportunities never hurts.

As it turns out, Josh Matched at his first choice program where he is currently a prelim, the University of Massachusetts.  We loved this program from the start and are so thrilled that not only did we choose them, but that they chose us.  I don't know if Josh would have matched at one of the other 4 programs he interviewed at if UMass didn't pan out, but I do know that he felt confident in all of his interviews and I would like to think that someone else wouldn't have passed him up either.  I guess we will never know and at this point, it no longer matters.

Many many things came together in order for this story to end in the successful manner that it has.  Maybe we just got totally lucky.  And if that's the case, we are thanking our lucky stars.  We have five years of a surgical residency ahead of us and you'd better believe we won't be taking any one day for granted.
Match Day 2015!
**If I haven't answered some of your questions, know that I plan to do a FAQ post as well in the next few days.  I wish I could respond to everyone that has been asking me to email them, but I'm only one person and I'm also a Mom and a wife.  I write this blog as mostly an online journal for family and friends and while I'm thrilled to be "helping" others in similar positions, I also don't know much more than what I've already written or read about online.  


  1. You and Josh have worked together as a team for many years. So, so happy that it has all paid off! Dad and I are very proud of both of you. Our prayers worked!

    Love you both,

  2. I have been reading your blog for a while now and heartfelt congratulations to your family on the good news:).Just remember all those people who leave negative comments don't know your true story,your true struggle or what it is like to be an IMG and the stress of not only making it through medical school and competing amongst your peers but also all AMG's .Even though we all take the same standard exam because its an"alternative" its looked down on .With faith and a good attitude look how far you have come :)

  3. I am following your blog as a current medical school applicant and seeing the options available to IMG. I am glad to see your hsband finish his dream of being surgeon!!!

    I find some of the groups like SDN are very helpful with certain aspects of medical applications, but are extremely discouraging in others. If you dont have perfect grades 8 years of volunteering at 22, 99% on your MCAT and applying to all MD schools you wont make it according to them. I am very excited to read other blog posts from you about resident life as i achieve my goals as well