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Unmatched to Matched- My Journey!

Every year thousands of U.S. Medical Student Seniors as well as International Medical Graduates (IMG’s) apply for residency and participate in the National Residency Match Program. This is a long and tedious process that involves doling out thousands of dollars, taking several day-long exams and attending several interviews (if you are lucky) all around the US.

I know this sounds tough. But you can trust me when I say this- it is tougher than it sounds! But I did it, and so can you! I have “okay” scores, and I feel that I owe it to the applicants for next year- to share my journey with truth and honesty.

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Unmatched

On the 17th of March 2014, I got the dreaded e-mail that absolutely and completely shattered my belief in myself. I am sure many of you are aware of this very e-mail, and thousands of my fellow applicants have received similar emails on the 16th of March 2015 this year.

My Background

Now let me tell you a bit about myself- I am a young graduate from Armed Forces Medical College. This is one of the premier institutes in India. I graduated in May 2012. Before graduation, I did a clinical elective at University of North Carolina in the field of Cardiovascular Critical Care. Let me give you a short timeline of my activities before this year’s match.

Red Timeline

Red Timeline

 

As you can gather from the timeline that I have been a Resident in the UK since April 2013, and I had given all my exams.

In 2014 when I went unmatched, I did thorough introspection and decided that I needed to improve my profile. I started looking for options to begin. I had heard about the so-called “Contacts” that cynical people attribute people’s success to, and I started calling relatives and friends to help me with the match. After wasting a couple of months, I realized that “Nobody in the United States will recommend you unless you have worked personally with them. Their reputation is at stake!”

My ray of Sunshine

I got depressed and would show up at work, do my duties and lie in bed for hours at length. The thought that was eating my brains was the fact that people less or as talented than me made it and after years of hard work I was here- lying in my bed- frustrated. I would stream through a series of posts in the USMLE 2015 forum and one person caught my eye.

This was a practicing Doctor in the United States and would take time out of his schedule to help students do well in the match. I started following his posts religiously and would copy and paste them in a Microsoft word file. His name is Dr. Harpreet Singh MD FACP. I started stalking his every post (Sorry Dr. Singh!) and within days I knew about his team, I had read all of his websites and was aware that he was working with 2 students to author a book. My motive was to gain credible knowledge as the fellow applicants who answered the post had “zero” understanding of the system and gave second hand information.

The Introduction

One fine day two extremely stupid fellow applicants accused Dr. Singh of having a commercial agenda, and were extremely disrespectful. I silently watched as they sabotaged all the guidance that Dr. Singh would have given the group had they not been total idiots! Dr. Singh stopped posting on the group altogether. Now I had nobody to look up-to, I was on my own again.

(A note to the disrespectful idiots- what commercial motives can a fully qualified doctor earning a 6 figure salary have in helping bankrupt students? )

I waited a week, and no posts came. I gathered the courage and messaged Dr. Singh- my exact words were- “ Please do not abandon genuine students because of some disrespectful idiots- we need you!” His reply was short and sweet- “I cannot take the burden of those who hurt my feelings, if you need any help- I am there for you!”

This was a ray of sunshine for me and I opened my heart to him, I sent him my CV and original publications within a day, and asked for a chance to prove myself. I have never looked back ever since.

The Opportunity

I got an opportunity to write 7 chapters in a peer-reviewed book, and my CV took a U-turn. Although he pushed me to work hard- I was a resident, I would work 14 hours a day and then sit 4 hours straight authoring the chapters with full references. He took good care of me, I needed access to Uptodate.com to study and he paid the entire 600$ from his pocket. I made a commitment to never let his investment in my education go to waste.

I worked for months with him; his team consisted of doctors, engineers, business analysts, trade consultants, journalists, and the humble myself. I worked hard and gave up sleeping altogether to get more involvement. The meetings would be at 2 am UK time and I would go straight to work after that. I hoped that I would get some benefit out of this, but I didn’t realize what was essentially different with me- “I had started hoping again” 

The Promotion

Dr. Singh promoted me to the position of Associate Medical Author and gave me the reins of his online blogs. I knew he could easily do it himself, but he gave me an opportunity to do it for my betterment. One small advice – “ When an elder gives you an opportunity- take it as an opportunity, it is for your own benefit.” ( Unless you cannot do justice to the opportunity- then you politely say No)

He gave me an opportunity to work in the non-profit organization (Icrush.org) that he runs, and I organized a 5k run with the team for the education of patients in the US. His team helped me immensely, and took my opinions with respect and spirit. (Later on, I was asked about this 5k run in one of my interviews, and gladly showed the beautiful pamphlet designed by Er. Gagan Ahluwalia- one of my other saviors. The pamphlet had my contributions written in bold letters.)

Tangible Touchpoint for Explaining Diabetes.

The Letter of Recommendation

The time for application was close, and I asked Dr. Singh for a letter of recommendation, and all our projects froze. His words to the team were “We owe it to Ankur” I was banned from all meetings till my letter was written and Dr. Singh uploaded it himself after every member other than me had proofread it. (I was told by a Program Director at a University program that in his 10 years as director he had never seen a 5 page long LOR with inputs from all the research team. He went on to read parts of the letter to me- and the words were “even if it was the middle of the night in Britain, Dr. Sinha would still be awake working with us, after his hectic day”

I wrote my personal statement and asked numerous people to read it. Dr. Singh binned it stating that it was full of fluff and useless. I started again, and again and again till he was satisfied. I had the perfect Personal Statement. He would never tell me what to write, but rather let me discover myself on my own.

My Visit to America

When I went to the US, he insisted that I stayed with him and moved his belongings from his office so that I could research with ease. He gave me a home, a loving family in the form of his Mother, his extremely dedicated and hard working wife Mrs. Aroma Singh, and their lovely kids. He bought me the 80$ tie that I wore for my interview as his blessings, he handpicked my suit, bought the professional Calvin Klein overcoat that I wore for my interviews, bought me the leather bag that I carried our authored books in, and trained me for interviews for an hour everyday.

Icrush Ebola

When Ebola hit the US Soil, there was panic all over the country! Dr. Singh, being one of the most reputed doctors in the region, was called by Fox 17 for an interview regarding the issue. He took me with him and this was my first look into the insides of a TV studio. The TV reporter suggested that we write a book on Ebola, and we took up the project.

From Left- Dr Singh, Ms Dana Chicklas and Dr Sinha

From Left- Dr Singh, Ms Dana Chicklas and Dr Sinha

I buried myself in research for the Ebola book, and we had published it within 14 days thanks to Dr. Singh’s team, Er. Gagan Ahluwalia and our excellent medical illustrator Dr. Himanshu Deshwal. Dr. Singh rewarded me by putting my name on the cover and I took it to all my interviews. (This book was inaugurated at Ferris State University, Michigan, and Dr. Singh gave me a chance to sit at the panel of experts to answer all question. He introduced me as his colleague and a star residency applicant- I was to find out later that 2 Associate PD’s were present amongst the crowd of more than 100.)

Icrush Ebola

Icrush Ebola

Vital Checklist Cardiology

Now the lion had tasted blood. I requested to start a new project and we took up a book aimed at quick and comprehensive review of Cardiology. We were able to finish the book in 32 days. Thanks to Er. Gagan Ahluwalia our creative head, Dr. Shreenivasan and Dr. Himanshu Deshwal who helped immensely. All three of us ( Me, Himanshu and Shreenivasan) were rewarded by getting our name on the cover! I took this book as well in the rest of my interviews. Dr. Singh invested thousands of dollars worth of his time and money to publish this books- and what was the motive? – The betterment of humanity, and science.

Vital Checklist Cardiology

Vital Checklist Cardiology

My Match

5 months of hard work and 11 interviews later (7 H1B University Programs, and 3 J1 University Programs, 1 Prematch) I have matched at my rank 1 Dream Program- The massive Maimonides Medical Center where I shall be exposed to about 75 IM Residents and 60 Fellows, and more that 500 trained physicians! In the heart of NYC. (I may have underestimated the number- I shall know better soon) 

Green Timeline

Green Timeline

Summary

Summary

Matched!!

Matched!!

I could have made it a Facebook post- but it would get 4 likes and then get lost in the updates. This portal is nearly immortal, and generations can benefit from this information.

Please feel free to leave comments, I would be glad to help! But please have patience- I would write articles to answer your queries so that everyone can benefit!

 

 

Dr.Harpreet Singh MD, FACP is a Chief Executive Officer and Founder of Vital Checklist and iCrush.org. The text, graphics, images, videos and other material contained in the videos and iCrush Website ("Content") are for informational purposes only. The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
Dr Ankur Sinha - Executive Editor
Dr Ankur Sinha is a budding physician currently working as a specialty doctor in the United Kingdom. He is an avid researcher and finds solace after his hours at work, in putting his thoughts into words. He advocates upheaval of set practices and blind notions using science and research. He strongly believes that " When you work for your passion, your life becomes an endless vacation" Visit his website at www.DrSinhaMD.com

18 comments

  1. thats great man
    U r the best
    Keep going

  2. wow your like an inspiration for all of us . Hard work doesn’t go waste . Thank you for taking out time and posting your experience for us, means a lot.

  3. this gave me hope, thank you very much from the bottom of my heart.

  4. Dr. Ankur Sinha !
    You have set as an example of perseverance . Thank you for sharing your valuable experience.It’s commendable !

  5. Koushik Srinivasan Parthasarathy

    Dear Dr. Ankur Sinha,
    I graduated from a medical school in India in 2012, I have completed all the 3 USMLE Steps and I got 225 in Step 1, 247 in Step 2 CK , Step 2 CS passed 1st attempt and 231 in Step 3. I have 6 months of observership experience in USA and 2 years of work experience in India, 6 months of research experience in Pediatrics and Human Development, (GI), no publications. I applied for the 2015 match, got 8 ivs in total, 5 in IM and 3 in Pediatrics. But unfortunately I did not match. I am planning to join as a Voluntary Researcher in NIH Critical Care Department. They are saying they don’t know whether they will be able to get any publications before I apply next cycle.
    Kindly give your suggestions on how to proceed for securing a position in next match.

    Thanking You,
    Koushik S P

  6. Firstly, hearty congratulations on your success. You deserve every bit of it sir. U have a great determination. I have learnt a lot from your story.

    thanks a lot for sharing. Wish you all the best.

  7. one hell of the journey man.
    inspired.
    Would like to work with you on your next project.

  8. Hey I am in need of your immense help regarding application. I’m a repeat applicant and have list all my hopes. I would appreciate if you could guide me. Is there any way if I could get in touch with you. May be via email. Please reply at ur convenience.

  9. This is an example of true dedication. You are an inspiration to the rest of us in this journey. I respect Dr. Harpreet singh for his selfless work. All the best sir

  10. I am glad I saw this post on Facebook and read your article! Nothing can be more inspiring for an aspirant who wants to pursue residency in the states. Please forward me your email address.

    Thanks

  11. Congratulations !! It is very much inspiring. I am an IMG done with my USMLE step 1,2 CK first attempt and step 2 CS in the second attempt. Preparing for step 3 right now. I want to do pediatrics. I have been looking for USCE. I have some USCE in the form of Observerships in clinical settings. I am still trying to get some more observerships or Research volunteering. But, have not been very successful with it.Any advice regarding what i should do now would be very much appreciated.
    thank you.

  12. Dear Dr.Sinha,
    I wish to congratulate you for your success and I wish to thank you for your benevolence in sharing your success story. I am a frsh graduate from India who is interested in research.Kindly accept my apologies for disturbing you. I am a Graduate from India 2014 October and has been offered a Research Position in Bench in Mass Gen Hospital. I have prior home country Bench Research experience and I love Bench Research but my ultimate goal is to move to Translational Research and getting a US Residency.Since you matched this year with bench research experience in Harvard, I was wondering if you can help me answer a couple of questions. How difficult it is to get a Residency position and seemingly convert from Bench to Bedside Physician in US if I spend a couple of years in a project in Bench research? How can I approach my Mentor for Observership besides Bench Research to stay connected to Clinical Medicine and get a LoR for Observerships as well? And finally since Bench research takes long to give a publication, are there any realistic chance of Matching by doing Research without Publications and how PDs regard Bench research in Harvard in general? I am pretty sure you are busy and I may be a thorn in flesh in between your work but it will be really kind of you if you can guide me on these questions as I am currently in a dilemma to pick up Bench research in Harvard or Clinical research in some other Universities. Finally big heartiest congratulations on your Match.

  13. That is an amazing story! Good luck in residency! Any advice for those of us Who were unable to match?

  14. Awesome! Congratulations. .Great job man…I am in the same boat..Doing research in Cardiology didn’t match..haven’t worked on a book chapter yet..I would love to join your team and write book chapters. My email is optimistic_guy16@hotmail.com

  15. Harpreet Singh

    Thank you Ankur for the kind words. Thanks everybody. We are here to help. I can only lead the horse to the water.

    Harpreet Singh MD, FACP

  16. Congratulations man ! Truely inspirational and motivational. This sets another example of hardwork not going in vain. As I went through your battle to acquire a residency position in US, I felt like a wave of hope passed through me as well.
    I graduated from in 2012 and I also did not get in this year with 6 IVs in total in IM. Currently I am doing internship in Pakistan and planning to do research in US. Any input from your side would be a huge favor. I look forward to hearing back from you.

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