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I matched! Now what?

The balloons have deflated, the confetti swept from the floor. Every piece of that massive Match cake has been eaten. But, between planning for impending student loan repayments, finding new housing (among a host of other things) and finishing medical school strong, it appears that Match Madness is anything but over. If there’s one thing we love, it’s sharing advice amongst pathologists and budding pathologists alike. We’re serving up post-Match recommendations, resources and wisdom from the pros - residents who made “the big switch” from med students to PGY-1 and from seasoned pathologists we’ve come to know and love.

Should I stay or should I go (on vacay)?

According to Dr. Keenen Smith, AP/CP PGY-1 at University of Pennsylvania, it’s a good idea to take that vacation, or at least a break from studying, before residency begins. “If you’re debating doing rotations as 4th year ends to ‘help give you a head start in residency’ vs taking time off/vacation - definitely take time off. Residency is intensely busy and you may not have the opportunity to take 4-8 weeks off at a time for a very long time. Most pathology programs know our specialty isn’t represented well in medical school so you won’t be expected to come in functioning as a mid-level resident. Some of your co-residents may have only had 1 pathology rotation whereas others may have done post-sophomore fellowships, but at the end of the day, you will all be first year residents together with the same expectations. As long as you are interested in learning, you’ll be in good shape. It’s hard to start residency feeling so unprepared, but coming in with a fresh mind is key.”

Dr. Allison Martin, PGY-1 and budding forensic pathologist at University of Colorado, shares her recommendation. “100% do not study. Why would you spend the last few months of relative free time studying? Besides, just like pre-med school studying, it's largely a waste of time because you don't yet know what you don't know, so you can't fill those gaps. You'll learn everything you need to know, when you need to know it.”

On the other side of the coin is using this time to continue your studies. Dr. Don Karcher, Professor and Immediate Past Chair of Pathology at George Washington University Medical Center, says, “First, if possible try to do an elective or two in your medical school that will come in handy during pathology residency. Some of the most helpful would be hematology-oncology, general surgery or a surgical subspecialty, or gyn oncology. If your school offers it, definitely do a pathology “boot camp” elective designed for senior students going into pathology. Definitely review normal histology; you can’t identify abnormal unless you know normal histology! If you didn’t use a real microscope during college or medical school (many students these days don’t), go to your school’s pathology department and ask if you can look at a few slides using a real microscope. The pathologists there will almost certainly be very happy to show you the fine art of properly using a microscope. Finally, try to relax and get prepared for an amazing experience as a pathology resident!”

For some, preparation for residency is a nice dose of R&R while others may want to take some of the steps recommended by Dr. Karcher. Ultimately, the choice to “stay or go” is what works best for you and what you need for personal wellness as you begin your next adventure as a resident physician.

Housing, Student Loan Repayment and Step 3, oh my!

We found excellent articles on the American Medical Association (AMA) website. One of our favorites touches on relocation, budgeting, studying for Step 3 as a resident, and more!

Organizations like Inside the Match and NRMP don’t just leave you to your own devices now that you’ve matched. Their support continues as they cover post-match topics like relocation, thriving in your new institution and even dating during residency. Check out our Match Resources Roundup for links to top Match and post-Match resources.

And don’t forget to look to your new program for answers. Dr. Karcher tells us, “Moving to a new institution and location can be stressful. But it can also be exciting. I recommend getting past the stress and embracing the excitement! Your new program will usually provide you with much information and guidance regarding where to live, how to commute, and how to get engaged in the new community. Often, the more senior residents in the program will be the most helpful with these things.”

Final Recommendations

Washington University in St. Louis incoming breast and gyn pathology fellow, Match mentor, and recent guest blogger Dr. Hansini Laharwani has these final recommendations.

First of all, enjoy and relax! Go on vacation; you earned this. It's celebration time--have some fun with your family and friends. The following 100 days will be the last big vacation and golden period of your life; make the most of it before taking up a new set of responsibilities. With that being said, you have some planning to do as well.

Plan your accommodation: If you are relocating, begin looking at rentals or properties for sale. Connect with the senior residents in your new area for living recommendations regarding safety, commute and neighborhood amenities.

Plan your finances/create a budget: The old notion that physicians shouldn't talk about money is outdated. If we are dedicated and intelligent enough to become physicians, we can understand some core financial topics. Many new expenses will be coming your way, so it's wise to get on top of things now by making your budget. It will help you stay organized and have fewer financial woes once you start working.

Plan for USMLE Step 3 if you haven't done so yet. Take Step 3 as soon as possible (yes, it's bold for a reason). Once you start your residency, you will get busy with learning pathology. It is crucial that you give immense focus on mastering the basics of pathology as it's a steep learning curve. Hence, my advice to all the matched residents is to get Step 3 out of your way. If not now, you should at least plan to get it done within the first six months of residency.

For Step 3, I used the following materials:

  1. UWorld Step 2 CK and Step 3 (I am more of a hands-on person; I prefer to make my notes and read from them, so I did make a lot of notes from UWorld.)

  2. Amboss Step 1 2 and 3 (my favorite since it's significantly updated)

  3. Conrad Fischer Step 3 lectures

If you’d like to get a jump on studying pathology, I recommend the following books:

  • The Practice of Surgical Pathology: A Beginner's Guide to the Diagnostic Process by Molawi and Rosai

  • Ackerman's Surgical Pathology

  • Histopathology for Pathologists

  • Sternberg Diagnostic Surgical Pathology

Check out our Match blog posts for additional resources and recommendations:

Match Madness 2022

Match Resources Roundup

PathMatch21 Rewind

PathMatch23 - get ready for the hottest list of resources and resident recommendations specifically for you! Be on the lookout for that blog post in the coming weeks.

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