Moments suspended in time: Joining the vascular fold

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Lindsey Olivere

Noon on March 19, 2021, marked the end of an unprecedented year in the world of resident recruiting. Months of virtual interviews, “away” rotations done through a computer screen, and a few short trips to prospective cities amidst rolling waves of lockdowns all culminated in this moment on a friend’s patio in a makeshift Match Day celebration. Moments after seeing the words “Vascular Surgery—University of Pittsburgh Medical Center” on a letter printed by a friend in an ode to in-person Match Days of the past, I received an email from my new program coordinator and a flurry of congratulatory messages from colleagues, both within and outside my future home in Pittsburgh. 

What many don’t realize, particularly in a world as small as that of vascular surgery, is that opening your Match letter immediately welcomes you into the fold of not only your new training program, but a remarkably innovative and multidisciplinary field. 

The weeks from Match Day to June 2021 were a blur of spending precious last moments in Durham, North Carolina, my home of nearly a decade. Seeing family and friends. Filling out countless onboarding documents. And ultimately moving to Pittsburgh with my partner, who thankfully joined me as a UPMC anesthesia intern. I also had the opportunity to travel to Texas and finally meet friends from the virtual interview trail at a pre-intern bootcamp. 

Soon enough, I was at a Pirates game, staring at those incredible yellow bridges spanning the Allegheny River and bracing myself for the moment when I would don my long white coat as an MD. As we enter March 2022 and I reflect on personal and professional growth over the last year, I can’t believe it has only been 12 months since opening that letter. I am still adjusting to life as a surgical resident, but there are a few things I know played a pivotal role in easing this transition. 

First, the friends made on the interview trail—many of whom I met for the first time in Texas—have remained sources of support throughout the last few months. It is worthwhile to invest in relationships with individuals who will become lifelong colleagues. Second, I spent time with family and friends before July—it is much harder to find time to get away during residency, particularly if you are training far from home, as well as to have protected time with a partner or spouse before your schedule becomes more hectic. Third, I invested time getting to know my co-residents. The beginning of the year can be overwhelming, but I tried to take advantage of every opportunity I could to spend time with my awesome co-intern, other vascular residents, as well as my new general surgery colleagues, who have all become my primary social network and support here in Pittsburgh. 

After a year of virtual interviews, I also took the time to explore my new city after Match Day and find a home in a neighborhood that would meet my needs as a resident. When time at home is limited, it has made a difference to come home to a place I love living in. 

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I have tried my best to be patient with myself in this transition. When it gets hard to maintain this perspective, I have called upon old mentors, and sought out new ones, to remind me both of how far I’ve come, and how much time still lies ahead to hone skills and explore interests. 

Overall, the time from Match Day to the start of intern year can feel overwhelming, and it is normal to fear your first moments alone with a pager. To all the new future vascular surgeons joining our community in March 2022: enjoy the time that lies ahead, and respect the time it will take to transition to life in residency. In the meantime, I can’t wait to welcome you all into the fold! 

Lindsey Olivere, MD, is a first-year vascular surgery resident at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

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