Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Last Christmas




I'm not sure when it happened, but sometime during the 2nd year of medical school, I began to map out my trek on 3 very large, picture calendars. You know the of national parks, huge vistas that you ad to your bucket list as you flip the pages. Awesome to look at as I moved onward.

As I progressed, I marked key dates, deadlines and points of interest in this process called medical school. I remember looking at December 2012 back then and marveling that it would be the last holiday break before graduation if everything went on time and schedule. And while there have been some blips, it came.

image It was a great holiday with many wonderful memories created with family, friends and places. But it did feel different. It was the first one I wasn't studying for something in earnest. And it's that pensive time before Match is announced. It was a time of reflection too...have I done everything I need to do? Is there anything I need to do? Are my last rotations all set? It's been a very busy 2011.

And so this part of the process will end very, very soon. It's the last of the clerkships and laid back learning. I wish I could figure out how to do 4-8 week rotations for the rest of my life, but alas it doesn't pay well :) It's a great time to hone skills, be truly present with patients and get better at communication and decision making. It's a great time to reflect on the experiences thus far and try to envision the future to come. It's an exciting time.

And while I may have been out of my mind to jump off into this abyss, it's been a great experience and I'm looking forward to the next stage. And that will be here before I know it. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel and graduation is on the horizon.


And the congregation said "yea".

Now, if I could only get my preceptor assignment for Monday.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

A Numbers Game

The frightening thing is the information doesn't seem to be out there. It's gone largely noticed as I talk to established physicians. The reality? As medical school class sizes grew and new medical school opened on top of more foreign medical students applying...many will NOT match in 2012.

Expectation - There will be approximately 24,000 PGY1 positions available this year in ALL specialties. There will be nearly 50,000 applicants this year (U.S. and FMGs plus graduate MD's from other countries). There are going to be over 25,000 U.S. grads alone....more than the number of PGY1 slots. Any with funding questions swirling, there may be less positions even as the number of applicants increases.

The Problem: A tremendous need for primary care physicians in this country (pediatrics, geriatrics, community internal medicine, general surgery, family practice, women's health, etc)

The Myth: Expansion of medical schools will increase physicians, particularly in primary care. This is the biggest lie of the entire health care discussion, and medical school have largely bought into the idea by increasing class sizes and opening new programs. Physicians are "built" in residency, NOT medical school.

A Simple Solution: Unmatched graduate MDs and DOs want to continue training and practice medicine...being part of the solution.

How about providing a route for all unmatched physicians who have passed Step 1 and Step 2 enter into a "apprenticeship" agreement for training with any licensed physician? In exchange "training reimbursement" through Medicare, Medicaid, Insurance etc including payment for services as if the trainee was a physician.

Why is this so outlandish? A Physician Assistant can graduate PA school after 2 years, and enter into a work agreement to "practice medicine with supervision" right away. Why shouldn't a 4 year trained physician be allowed to do the same? It make so much sense to create this alternate pathway to create primary care and needed specialty physicians as a methodology to create the solutions health care really needs in this country.

The question, is there anyone in medical leadership willing to champion the effort. Are Boards of Medicine willing to be creative enough to fulfill the needs of it's citizenry as physicians retire, leave medicine, and refuse to accept Medicare and other payment programs?

We really need solutions, not more roadblocks. How about bringing the community apprenticeship training model back? It's worth looking at!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Emerging from the Rabbit Hole

Time flies when you are having fun or doing interviews for residency. I was doing the latter. Doesn't seem to matter how many times I sit across a table from another human being for an interview, it never gets any easier. imageI'm sure my facade is glowing calm, but my insides are churning of sweat and sheer panic.  I realize that it's not supposed to be that way, but the pressure of presenting yourself to one person or another in a short amount of time is brain busting. Combining a rather long history with honesty and trying to highlight the important qualities that fit the setting = nerves. At least the suit looked good.

But then, once in awhile there is a merging of the minds, a synchronous dance of perfect symbiosis and "Tsaheylu" is formed. I jump up and down inside when that happens. It's a moment in the interview time, place continuum when you know you are answering the questions easily, appropriately and becoming one with the interviewer. The portal into this rabbit hole could be something simple like a highlight from your past that fits their future view of the program. It could be a shared venture outside of medicine or a key word or phrase. It could be a testing struggle you both shared. And there doesn't seem to be any rhyme or reason and certainly no way to Google it in advance.


But I'm not asking for much, just a chance. A chance to show how passionate I am about medicine and patient care. A chance to prove beyond my average test scores that my clinical skills, honors rotations evaluations and experience means something beyond the sheer numbers. Match is what this last 4 years has been all about, and it's about to happen; As soon as these interviews are all over and the rank order lists are submitted. This is the nerve wracking season of medical education for MS-4's and graduate MD/DO's everywhere.


Since the 80's the number of applicants for the Match is growing at a faster pace than the number of spots available. This leaves the clear picture to many that residency is not possible. Everyone doesn't match. So more and more applicants are vying for a proportionally smaller number of post graduate training program spots. That's a recipe for a nervous interview season.

And so it goes. About 3 months after the holiday season, everyone will know their fate and where they'll be going come July 1. Could be family medicine in Florida, surgery in South Dakota or dermatology in Des Moines. The future of medicine is in the hands of a few powerful men and women interviewing a few very nervous applicants.