May 04, 2003

A week from today I'm done. It only began to sink in when I finally tracked down my AWOL PhD diploma, and picked up my robes, hat and hood. Up to this point as I've finally kicked past the last few milestones, I've tended to view them with some sense of anticlimax. Last August I didn't make any real effort to bring my family to my PhD defense and it was Joe who encouraged them to come. For next week's MD activities, I really would have been happy to sneak through the whole process, but alas, they're here.

Walking across the Quad, my diploma in one hand, a hanger-full of academic regalia in the other was the first intimation that I've actually done something. These are all symbols, but it's finally palpable that I've finally laid down the foundation, and now it's time to get to work and build upon it.

March 20th was a rain-spattered Match Day. I'd scrubbed out of a breast reconstruction case, put on my white coat and tie and wandered down to the Searle Center as thousands of Duke seniors have done on the third Thursday of March. There were only a few people yet. Most were in street clothes having had the day off. I suppose I should have asked for the same, but sitting at home, bored didn't appeal to me. Having been only a late appendage to this class made the day less momentous I think. I only knew the few people I shared rotations with and a few holdovers from the class I had TA'd in Medical Genetics. I ate a lot of chicken tenders.

Within ten minutes the room was milling with nervous 4th years. It does seem that everything about medical education encourages high sphincter tone. We're either apprehensive about our grades, which medical school accepts us, whether we survive medical school, then the Match, then residency, the fellowship, the Boards, on and on. There was Suzette in a Burberry hat, there was Patty saying that she felt like projectile vomiting, Daniel waiting for Emily to show up, Sheleika looking far more relaxed than she had in the SICU, Shy to witness the proceedings and provide moral support. They had these really huge chocolate covered strawberries. I had about five--they were in front of me; I couldn't help it.

And then here I was, putting a dollar in the pot, shaking random hands and collecting the envelope that would tell me where I would spend the next at least five years. After the 87th person had been called was the signal to open our envelopes: "Contratulations, you have matched!" in bold on a laser-printed page from the NRMP, "General Surgery, Duke Univ Med Ctr--NC". What I'd wanted.

It all begins soon. I confess that I'd rather live and work in San Francisco or Boston, but work in the CODEx Project is so promising, and I'm to have some sort of faculty position in the Computational & Applied Genomics Program of the Institute for Genome Sciences and Policy, that leaving seemed counter-productive. Anyhow, I actually don't mind the infamous White Pants of the Duke surgical Intern and Junior Resident. We may indeed be the last to require them, but aside from having to find white boxer shorts, I like the idea of minimizing early morning decision making.

Posted by erich at May 04, 2003 10:16 AM
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