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  • March 21, 2010
  • The Match

  • Penn Med student David Carrier reflects on the Match Day experience and looks ahead to his family medicine residency at his top choice: Lancaster General Hospital.

First and foremost, I apologize for writing this so late – I fully intended to share my experiences of the match itself much closer to the actual event, but the last few days have been a bit crazy. With the hope that late truly is better than never, this is what my experience of The Match itself was like.

David Carrier receives the envelope containing his residency match letter. Photo by Daniel Burke Photography.Two things. First, the weather for Thursday could not have been any more perfect, or contributed any more to the positive energy and feeling of the day. Simply wonderful. Second, all of that sense of calm and acceptance I talked about before lasted right up until I sat down in the auditorium, and then went completely out the window.

After hanging out with my classmates and sipping mimosas for a half-hour or so, we all made our way down to Dunlop Auditorium for the big event. There was a lot of nervous energy in the group, sort of like you might imagine it’d feel to be among the migrating wildebeest as they mill around just before trying to cross the crocodile-laden river to get back home to the southern Serengeti Plains. Maybe not quite that dramatic, but you get the picture.

Penn med students celebrate good news upon receiving their residency matches. Photo by Daniel Burke Photography.Regardless, we all eventually made our way into the auditorium, and within minutes the ceremony began. After a few light-hearted (and blessedly very short) speeches by some of our various deans, JoMo (aka Dr. Morris, Associate Dean of Student Affairs – the guy who writes our dean’s letter) and Barb Wagner (Director of Student Affairs, who is one of the warmest, nicest human beings I have met) came to the podium and pulled out The Basket. The Basket was filled with strips of paper, on which were written all of our names. To try to give everyone a fair shot at finding out their placement soonest, names were drawn at random from said Basket. After each name was drawn and read aloud into the mic, the crowd would cheer/ clap, and the slightly stunned looking student would make their way down to receive their envelope at the front of the room  While the process was very well thought out (names were read off very quickly, applicants returned to their seats to open their envelopes in relative privacy), never knowing when my name would be called – and straining to make sure I could hear the next name over the lingering cheers/ applause and the conversation of people around me – made it simultaneously both exciting and stressful.

David takes a moment to pray before opening the envelope.  Photo by Daniel Burke Photography.My name was called about 2/3 of the way through. I practically leapt out of my seat in the initial jolt of adrenaline, but managed a pretty slow and controlled descent down the stairs to the table, and then again back up to my seat. Somehow I felt very calm holding the unopened letter – and indeed set it on my lap and said a quick prayer once I got back to my seat, one final request to God that he place me where he wanted me to be instead of where I wanted to be – but actually starting to open it cured me of that sense of calm pretty quickly.

David shares his match news with friends.  Photo by Daniel Burke Photography.And just like that, it was over. Lancaster General Hospital. My first choice. While I had anticipated that seeing the name on the sheet might be a little anticlimactic, it wasn’t. Not only was I elated, but all of the feelings of anxious anticipation, frustration at being unable to plan the next few months of my life, and forceful determination not to allow myself to imagine ending up at any one place (lest I be disappointed to match somewhere else) were suddenly gone. I had to keep reassuring myself that this really was final, that it really was okay to start thinking ahead.

The rest of the ceremony passed relatively quickly, and though I felt considerable anxiety on behalf of my close friends when they opened their letters, it was a huge relief to have already opened mine.  What followed was a whirlwind of sharing both news and excitement with classmates, most of whom were tremendously happy with their matches. I did break away for a few minutes to call my family (I called my mom first, of course), which was surprisingly more emotional for me than I thought it would be. Somehow telling them not only made it seem more real, but also gave them a chance to admit that they were really hoping I’d end up at Lancaster too as to be closer to them – a preference that, though suspected, they kept from me in order to be as fully supportive throughout the process as they could. That reminder of my family’s love for me, in the context of the emotional overload of the day, was truly moving.

David and a friend celebrate after the Match Day ceremony.  Photo by Daniel Burke Photography.Amid the celebration at the bar following, the phone call from my new program director and the program’s (wonderful) recruitment coordinator, and the few hours of downtime I had later that afternoon, one feeling that really surprised me was that of loss. While I was (and still am) tremendously thankful to have matched at Lancaster, I actually felt (and at times still feel) little tinges of regret that I will not get to experience some of the aspects of my other top-ranked programs, whether that be the opportunity to live in a given city, certain curricular aspects that had excited me, or specific residents or faculty members I really connected with. They come and go unpredictably, and it’s not just me who feels this way; several of my classmates admitted to feeling this as well.

My day ended with my regular Thursday night Bible study/ church community group, which was so… comfortingly… normal. (Except for celebratory cupcakes, that is, which I was willing to tolerate.) It was just really nice to have the whole match event – which had been an emotional rollercoaster – put back into perspective, and to get to spend time with some of my closest friends.  My personal motto for the match had been Psalm 16:9 – “In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps” – and somehow being there, singing praise songs, and studying scripture really drove home the reality of that truth for me. So while I may feel the occasional pang of regret to miss out on some aspect of another program, or get nervous about what my life, training, and fellow interns will be like at Lancaster, I feel mostly an overwhelming sense of peace – because I’m going exactly where God wants me to be. 

Amen to that.


David Carrier

This report was written by David Carrier, a Penn medical student, during the week of Match Day 2010. Matriculating to medical school immediately after college, David has had a consistent commitment to community service, refining his focus to the homeless and underserved populations.Volunteering at Covenant House, a homeless shelter for adolescents, he assisted in the medical clinic and helped organize and run education programs for the residents. He also volunteered at two student-run free clinics and spent significant time interacting with the homeless on the streets of Philadelphia. David became a National Health Service Corps Scholar at the end of his second year and was also awarded the Myrtle Siegfried, MD, and Michael Vigilante, MD, Scholarship. He continued his involvement and leadership in Christian groups as well, helping to lead groups both through his church and through Penn. In his free time, David enjoys playing the guitar, writing music, playing soccer and tennis, and reading.  He is matching in family medicine.


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