It’s easy for a “survivor” to recall the tough times during medical school and residency. The tough times are truly numerous. But since I like to keep the survivor stories light, I recently asked my husband to recall the best memory of his training years. Having been with him since graduate school (and before any of this medical journey) I had a feeling I knew the answer he would give. “The trip with my dad.” He said. The same answer I expected he would give. Although I would have phrased it “Your residency interviews.” It was the same trip, just a different perspective of the memory.
When we think about residency interviews as a medical student, our pulse quickens and palms get sweaty. How many places do we have to apply to? Did we choose the right away rotations? Did we do enough away rotations? How many interviews will be offered? How many can I afford to attend? What will my ranking list look like?
There are dozens of questions, and even more factors to complicate the matter. We had the usual complicating factor – specific desired location. At the time, we were in the Midwest for medical school, where my husband grew up. But as a Colorado girl, I was used to warmer weather and much more sun. I couldn’t handle another 3 years in the Midwest and desperately wanted to get closer to home.
Here moves in the second complicating factor. There are few programs in the Western states around Colorado (at least for ER – my husband’s specialty).
And our last complicating factor is that my husband doesn’t fly. As we neared the end of third year, we wondered how we would make this work.
Ultimately, my husband chose to do his fourth year elective months in Dec and Jan. The electives he chose allowed schedule flexibility, so he was able to manage a 4 week break that placed Christmas through New Years near the end. His Midwest interviews he scheduled around 3-day breaks in November and early December, and the Western states he planned during the 4-week trip. His dad, a recently retired ER physician, joined my husband for the journey along with our 1-yr-old golden doodle.
For the journey, I made my husband a binder with a map of the US on the front and individual pages for each of the locations. I had areas for him to write down notes related to the program director/staff, hospital facilities, other residents, best areas to live, etc. Each location had a two-page spread for him to capture thoughts. I also included printed mapquests, hotel recommendations, things to see and do at their destinations and along the way. I stayed back as I was working full-time and unable to take that much time off. Although a road trip this extensive is more suitable for the boys anyway.
On their way to interview destinations, they visited Mount Rushmore, the Black Hills, the White Sands, the border to Mexico, and Saguro National Park – to name a few of the highlights. We rendezvoused in Colorado at Christmas with both of our families.
Overall, by driving to all of his interviews, my husband developed a great feel for each of the areas we considered. He was able to see the surroundings and outdoor activities (just as important to him as the program). And, it made for interesting conversation during his interviews. People would ask about the adventures, what sights had he seen, how our puppy was holding up through the travel (very well, by the way). I would like to think it helped him be more relaxed, allowed his personality to show through, and helped him stand out in the memory of the rank list panel when the time came. His father’s wisdom, as a former academic ER physician, was hugely valuable in determining questions to ask and how to process all he had learned through the interviewee experience. It was a powerful trip between a father and a son, and one they speak of often to this day. He matched at his number one, and we enjoyed spending the next three years continuing to explore our surroundings – as much as a residency schedule allows.