Jacob Peoples, MD
Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge
Internal Medicine Program
ACP Well-Being Committee
ACP Council of Resident/Fellow Members
The past year has been full of new academic and psychological stressors for senior medical students. From decreased opportunities for clinical experience to Board exams moved at random, the past few months have forced medical education to change more than at any time in recent memory. With the heartbreaking realization that you will be unable to travel for acting internships and interviews in order to experience other programs and parts of the country while still navigating rank lists and the Match, it will be easy to become discouraged. What advice could I possibly give you to navigate each of these unique challenges while maintaining your confidence and sanity?
Being present will be difficult with applications, Board exams, and virtual interviews looming; it would be much easier to will next the next few months to pass quickly. Yet, the truth is that these months pass swiftly in time but linger in the heart and mind. Ask any physician how they remember their fourth year, and they will smile, recalling fondly when they felt at the top of their game and full of possibilities. Ask any fall intern, and they will admit that they would give anything to feel that free of responsibility and full of confidence again. Enjoy it while it is here, because you will never have this moment again.
My former program director always said that we spend too much time lamenting the misspoken sentences during presentations and wrong answers on standardized tests and too little time celebrating. You have survived some of the most grueling years of your training during one of the most difficult times in American history and through it have become more prepared to navigate the hurdles and constant changes that residency will bring. Be proud of yourself. Cherish the friends who helped you survive and thrive. Spend the money. Drink the wine. Take the walk. Sleep late while you can. Travel. Wear a mask.
Write it all down. Write down every night call, every meaningful patient experience, every frustration at the situation forced on you. Write because you can. Write because you’ll cherish it one day. Write to see how much easier the feelings and words flow when we put pen to paper rather than speaking them aloud. Write if not to process the feelings then to tell the story of this time and the beginning of your new career. One day, these will be the stories you tell students, residents, colleagues, and families. You will never regret being able to look back and remember how you felt at such a special moment.
I know it must be difficult to see it now through the haze of insecurity in the future. The truth is that, through the last few months and the upcoming match process, you have become the most prepared class in recent memory to tackle the unknown and take challenges in stride. I cannot wait to see what the class of 2021 will accomplish.