Vascular surgery resident reflects on Match Day experience

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Eric Smith
Integrated vascular surgery resident Eric Smith, MD, tells Vascular Specialist how he handled the lead up to Match Day. 

For medical students hoping to specialize in vascular surgery, the eagerly anticipated Match Day (March 15) marks a pivotal career moment. Organized by the National Resident Matching Program (NRMP), it is the culmination of years of hard work, education and clinical experience. 

The excitement of imminent professional growth is tinged with the uncertainty of where they will spend the next phase of their medical journey. The days preceding Match Day are a flurry of final preparations, with SVS members revisiting residency programs and seeking advice from mentors to navigate the pivotal decisions ahead. 

Eric Smith, a postgraduate year one (PGY-1) integrated vascular surgery resident at the University of California San Francisco and a 2021 SVS Diversity Medical Student Vascular Annual Meeting (VAM) Travel Scholarship winner, shares insights into the emotional whirlwind leading up to Match Day. 

“Once your exams are done, the thing that people should try to remember is to focus on everything that you’ve accomplished to reach this point, so that it keeps you grounded. Medical school goes by so fast, and it’s nice to just sit and take a breather,” said Smith. 

Recalling the sleepless nights and stressful dreams preceding the decision, Smith emphasizes the importance of maintaining mental well-being during this anxious period. His advice to medical students is to take control of their situation and time, ensuring a comfortable mental space. He and his partner would engage in activities such as hiking or spending time with family to clear his mind. 

“I spent a lot of time travelling—but even though I wanted to be back in the operating room, people had to keep me away for my own good,” said Smith. 

Finally, Match Day arrives, and the anticipation peaks. Medical students, alongside their counterparts across the nation, will open their envelopes to discover where they will be completing their vascular surgery residencies. The mixed emotions are evident—joy, relief and perhaps a touch of nostalgia for the programs that brought them to this point. 

Smith shared his personal experience, recounting how, by 9 a.m., he learned he was matched with his top choice. The waves of excitement that swept over him were met with a surreal sense of disbelief, prompting him to reread the acceptance letter. However, even after securing his first preference, Smith grappled with the experience of mourning the many alternative paths in front of him. 

“What’s particular about Match Day is that you have all these different versions of yourself that were split apart with each decision of what could have been,” said Smith. 

Match Day for vascular residents is not just a day, but a culmination of years of dedication and perseverance, Smiths reflected. The days leading up to this event are filled with a unique blend of excitement, camaraderie and support from the SVS community, he added. 

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