Mar 17, 2011

Brief synopsis...

The timeline of all this stuff comes out through this blog if you read from the beginning, of course, but who on earth wants to do that? Thinking back on everything, and with prospective students I talk to, the entire process of becoming a doctor is frigging confusing.

In other news, after over a year of my mother's pleading, I have a new profile picture. Kagome is dead. I'm probably going to give her about a month of peace before I switch to Ed from Cowboy Bebop, because that's how I roll.

The cliff notes of what I've been doing:
-finish bachelor's of sciences in US while taking MCAT (difficult but moderately priced test)
-2 years of basic sciences in the Caribbean. A more clever blogger than I referred to this as the Bob Marley School of Medicine.
-USMLE Step 1 (giant expensive test)
-1 year of core rotations (internal medicine, pediatrics, surgery, psych, OB/Gyn, etc) at a hospital in Brooklyn;
-USMLE Step 2 CS/Step 2 CK (two giant expensive tests)
-1 year of elective rotations at varying hospitals (okay, still in BK; I'm lazy)
-Graduate with Medical Degree
-Obtain ECFMG certificate (that's a bonus for us foreign kids)

FWI, you're still paying for all of this at this stage. For the last two years, you work in a hospital, but you are a paying student.

During this time, you must secure a residency for when you are out of medical school or you can be a doctor all you want, but you can't practice. A residency is additional training, for which you are paid, and this is what trains you to your specialty. Anyone graduating medical school is a doctor, but only people completing a pediatric residency are pediatricians. The process of securing a residency (since everyone's applying for them at the same time) is called the Match.

The Match:
-September through February of last academic year, choose a medicine specialty you want to practice and apply through a paid central database to programs you select.
-During this time, those programs that want to interview you grant you dates for them. You attend as many as you are able
-Mid February: submit a rank list. This is your favorite programs in order from top to bottom of your preference. How you rank stuff is up to you... location, training, prestige, hotness of fellow residents, etc. The programs are simultaneously ranking you.
-February to March: The central computers match up (get it?) applicants to programs. Programs with unfilled residency spots lose thousands of dollars for having those spots vacant. Applicants with no programs are jobless for a year while their loans go into repayment. Stakes are high. The computer uses an algorithm that tries to match the highest ranking applicant to the highest ranking program. If Pediatrics at Tulane loves Lucy and Lucy loves Tulane, and neither Tulane nor Lucy love anyone more. Match. This takes a while.
-Third Monday in March: Black Monday. The computers release whether students have successfully matched. Location is not disclosed.
-Tuesday-Thursday: Scramble: A list of the programs with unfilled positions is released to the unmatched applicants and a predictable clusterf-- of frantic emailing, faxing, and calling ensues. Applicants may have to switch specialties and explore other geographic regions to ensure a job.
-Thursday: Match Day. At noon EDT, the names of the programs are released to the people that matched there. Most American medical schools have a large ceremony to commemorate this. Some friends and I are making our own.

The name and specialty that is released on Thursday is where you are contractually obligated to go on July 1st of that year to begin residency training. The first year of residency (which used to be more of a transitional year, though now there are still transitional years and preliminary years) is what most people think of when they refer to "interns".

Usually, after your first year of residency, you take USMLE Step 3 (giant expensive test).
Near the end of your residency, you take the board exams (massive excruciatingly expensive tests) for that specialty. You also start a version of the Match all over again around then if you're applying for a fellowship, which is yet another 1-2 years of training for subspecialty fields (like pediatric cardiology).

So there we go... a probably largely unnecessary "Becoming a Doctor for Dummies" guide. Now back to being excited for the big reveal in ten hours.


Lorrie said...

Thank you for posting this. I always have so many questions for you and I know you haven't the time to answer them. Plus I just miss talking to you and I can totally hear your voice when I read your blog, it's nice. Anyway I wanted you to know how very proud of you I am. I love you!

Michelle said...

I've just started reading your blog. Definitely sounds like you've been busy - can't wait to see how it all comes out. One question - have you tried any of the USMLE prep programs over the course of your adventure? What would you recommend to someone who's just starting the voyage?