A question that students commonly wrestle with is “How will BRI involvement affect my MATCH experience?” I wrestled with this question myself. With the MATCH growing increasingly competitive, none of us want to add additional barriers to our dream program or specialty. After successfully going through the MATCH for psychiatry, however, I can confidently say that my BRI experiences were highlights, rather than detriments, on the interview trail! Before I elaborate about my experience, this is my first key point:
BRI can certainly help you build a competitive application, so go forward with boldness!
The key word in that first point is “can.” BRI can help, but simply being a passive member won’t necessarily generate talking points on the interview trail. My involvement in BRI was helpful because I was blessed to take advantage of leadership, internship, and fellowship opportunities. Consequently, here is my second key point: If you are a member, be active! Organize meetings, attend conferences, write blogs, host debates! Many programs asked about the single payer debate we hosted and about the BRI podcast I helped create. Some even asked, with sincere curiosity, for my opinions about the future of American healthcare! Thanks to my experiences in BRI, I had meaningful things to share with my interviewers.
Now for a little more about the statistics of my experience. When preparing for the interview trail, I narrowed my search based on the most consistent piece of advice I heard: Choose a program where you’ll be happy! Since I was recently married and expecting a baby, happiness meant staying close to family in St. Louis. Fortunately, there are a handful of great programs in this area! However, based on the “2018 Charting Outcomes” (https://mk0nrmpcikgb8jxyd19h.kinstacdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/Charting-Outcomes-in-the-Match-2018-Seniors.pdf) MATCH document, my advisor recommended I apply to about 25 programs just to be safe.
The MATCH document also provided a terrifying statistic: The no-match rate into psychiatry for US seniors was 16%! For reference, the no-match rates for orthopedic surgery and radiology were 17% and 11%, respectively! Those who did NOT match only interviewed and ranked an average of 5.8 programs. So, I decided to aim for 9 interviews and ranks, giving me about a 90% chance of matching. When it was all said and done, I interviewed at all the regional programs I had hoped for, as well as two prestigious schools that were a flight away. I ended up turning down two interviews and officially ranked 7 programs. Thankfully, I was ultimately accepted by my top pick in the St. Louis area — Saint Louis University!
Overall, I was very pleased with how my application was received. I was interviewed by what I consider to be 2 top programs, 3 strong programs, and 2 safety programs. The impression I received was that the strength of my application was in work and leadership experiences. Many of these experiences, of course, I credited to BRI! My interviewers seemed genuinely impressed that I had committed so much time to studying the economic, political, and philosophical issues within medicine during medical school. It reminded me of the physicians I had met at BRI conferences who often said, “I wish I would have started learning about these issues as a medical student!” That seemed to be a common sentiment on the interview trail as well. These conversations confirmed the importance of these issues to current physicians, and I truly believe that engaging with these ideas as students gives us a dramatic advantage as we prepare for our practice!
The issues we learn about with the help of BRI have a major impact on the quality of life for working physicians! Unfortunately, it seems that many physicians feel stuck or already burned out with medicine. It’s our responsibility as students and residents to add to the road that has been paved for us. We have an opportunity to improve the systems that have taught us everything we know about medicine.
And so, my third key point is really a call to action: Keep learning and build something better! Whether you continue the debate of ideas in academics or participate in disruptive innovation in the private sector, there are so many ways to add value! It really is up to us to improve healthcare affordability, accessibility, and quality. We’ll never achieve those goals, though, if there are no physicians to care for patients. Consequently, it’s also up to us to restore and protect the fulfilling patient-doctor relationship. So for your sake and for the sake of your future patients, build something better! John Flo, MD, St. Louis University School of Medicine, 2019, Resident Doctor SSM Health Saint Louis University Hospital