By Alyssa Brown
In 2019, I stood by and watched as my friends and classmates matched. It was the spring of my first year in the PhD program. I had made the flight down to watch them match. It was a bittersweet feeling to see my medical school friends find their new homes. It made me acutely aware that they were passing me by. On the plane ride back to Minnesota, I wrote about this experience. I also wrote about my anxiety of returning to medical school in 2021 and knowing no one. That Match Day made it very real for me.
This year, it was my turn. I had applied, interviewed, and ranked programs. I had gone on second looks, and I spent the last day before certifying my list on the phone agonizing over rankings of different programs. Some of the same thoughts ran through my head. Would I be happy there? Would I make friends? Would I make it as a surgeon?
I certified my rank list a week before defending my thesis. As I sat on a high floor office in the hospital looking out over Rochester, Minnesota, I felt sad and a tear came to the corner of my eye. I felt nostalgic. It was the same view I had that I used to have from my balcony when I lived in Rochester during my PhD. I had spent many days and nights looking out at that view. The realization came that I would be moving again. I would have to make new friendships and find new mentors and adapt again. I would be leaving my friends and mentors in Louisville and Rochester. I would be leaving the families I had built there. In June, I will be packing up my things and starting again on a new journey.
On Match Day this year, my partner, Jarel, joined me. I knew under 10 people in my 150 person medical school class, and there were only two who I thought of as friends. Jarel and I found seats in the last row. The whole day felt more surreal than anxiety-provoking. As students and families nervously twittered around the ballroom, Jarel and I just sat there sipping our drinks. Finally, the envelopes were passed out. I didn’t try to peer through it under the lights. I didn’t feel ready to open it. Opening it meant that I would know where I was moving. It would make this process concrete. If I didn’t open it, I could keep living in blissful ignorance. The countdown started, and classmates tore open their envelopes. Cheers rang out across the room. I still stood there watching. Jarel didn’t try to get me to open it. He knew I would on my own time. After five minutes, I finally took the letter out of the envelope, but I still hesitated to unfold it. It was hard for me to process that I had been waiting seven years to open an envelope that would set me on a course. I had waited for this.
I finally opened it and scanned down to the bolded program name. Instead of saying anything, I just hugged Jarel for a long time. I knew the onslaught of text messages asking where I was going would start, but I wanted to live in this bubble a little longer. The rest of the day was a blur of friends, phone calls, and text messages. I was and still am overwhelmed. I am left with the same anxieties I have always had. Will I be happy in this program? Will I be successful? Will I be a good surgeon? Will I make friends?
Even when having these thoughts, I think of the incredible women and people behind me on this path. The people that have brought me through these seven years. The ones who believed in me, pushed me, and encouraged me. I am too lucky to have all of these amazing people with me. After all this waiting, so much will change, but much will stay the same. The people who support me are always an invaluable part of my journey.
Alyssa Brown grew up in Chattanooga, TN. She went to Centre College for a B.S. in Biology and minor in History. She fell in love with surgery after seeing her mentor perform an anoplasty during the first year of medical school. She finished her third year of medical school in 2018 and wandered off the beaten path to get a PhD, before finishing her MD. She is receiving her MD degree from the University of Louisville School of Medicine, and her PhD in Biomedical Engineering and Physiology at Mayo Clinic School of Biomedical Sciences. She is in her fourth year of medical school and has matched at Northwestern for general surgery residency. Her thesis research is on diaphragm muscle mitochondrial function and morphology, which she will defend in March. She also participates in research projects focused on physician infertility, student mental health, and pediatric surgery. She has been a part of the AWS Blog Subcommittee and AWS Instagram Subcommittee for three years, and she has loved writing pieces for the blog over the past years. During the pandemic, you will probably find her baking sweets and pastries that she saw on “Great British Bake-Off,” or embroidering. You can find her on Instagram @Alyssa_b_futuremdphd and on Twitter @Alyssa_B_MDPhD.
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