By Jacqueline Koomson, MD
Medicine has always been an intimidating institution to me. Facing the daunting years of training, I feared I was inherently inadequate. I spent 22 years in school learning about organ systems, pathways and procedures, patient interactions – all things that would shape me as a doctor.
As I immersed myself in knowledge, I started to worry about my capacity to provide unwavering exceptional care to those who entrust me with their well-being, especially in a system that perpetually fails them. Perspective kept me grounded throughout challenges, from placing myself in a frightened patient’s shoes before a procedure to remembering what drove me to medicine after not performing up to my own standards on a test. As I assembled my list, perspective drove my Match rankings. I thought to myself: Where can I not only best serve vulnerable populations, but also grow as a doctor and a person? Where can I get the most exposure to pathology, genuine mentorship, and a focus on racial justice? Where would I feel seen?
The days leading up to Match Day felt eerily like test anxiety; strange dreams that affected my quality of sleep and stomach issues too embarrassing to detail. I placed so much weight on Match Day and how it would validate me as competent, intelligent, or perhaps even exceptional. I wanted the institution of medicine, specifically radiology, to embrace me. I worried about what matching with each specific hospital meant to me, my family, and my future patients.
The morning of Match Day, my apprehension dissipated as friends and family surrounded me, ready to celebrate the culmination of many years of hard work. The joys of the day reflected in the smiles on my mom’s and dad’s faces, in the jollof, beef ribs, chicken, potato salad, cornbread, and cake prepared by my loved ones. Cheers erupted in my kitchen and on my laptop from friends and family as I announced my matched institution, Emory! I stressed over validation when I had it all along. Seeing my family and friends proud of me made every challenge worth it. I’d be lying if I said the institutional validation didn’t feel great, but standing amongst those who already referred to me as Dr. Koomson, I finally felt confident knowing where I am meant to be and what I can bring to the field of radiology.
For many of us, our medical journey began in high school, and we have reached the pinnacle of its academic leg. We pushed through pre-med classes, MCATs, AMCAS, and medical school interviews. We made it through all the classes, tests, and virtual residency interviews to train in our specialties. More than 40,000 MS4s will embark on a new journey, and regardless of what that may look like, I know there is no way we would be here if we weren’t ready.