Match Day: Reflections from Current Residents

Published on 
March 20, 2015
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For fourth year medical students across the U.S., today is arguably the most important and emotional day of their academic careers. It’s Match Day—the day when, with the opening of a plain white envelope, a new class of residents will find out where they will live, learn and grow into practicing physicians.

Last year, we talked to a few students who were just “matched” to the pediatric residency program at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA) and discussed their achievements, excitement and plans for the future. We recently followed up with Stephen Speicher, MD, (left) and An Pham, MD, (right) to hear about their whirlwind first year and their words of wisdom for the new resident class.

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What was the biggest adjustment between life as a med student and life as a resident physician?

Stephen Speicher: For years, my job has been just to learn - between high school, college and medical school that was the sole focus. As a resident, you are asked not only to learn but to apply this knowledge while taking care of sick and medically fragile patients. It’s something that I love doing every day, but also something that is a huge change from my prior years in the classroom.

An Pham: For me the biggest difference is how involved we become in our patients’ care–both medically and emotionally.  We hold our patients hands when getting an IV.  We comfort parents as we provide information about life-changing diagnoses.  We reach out to pediatricians in the community to ensure continuation of care when patients are discharged from the hospital.  We have the opportunity to advocate for the concerns of our patients in the hospital and in the community. It is incredibly humbling that patients and their loved ones allow us to be an integral part of their medical experiences.  

What has been the most memorable experience so far?

Speicher: This year was the first that I didn’t get to spend Christmas with my family, which was something I was dreading since the onset of the year. What I didn’t anticipate was the feeling of gratitude I felt after that long work day. I was able to witness the beauty of families of hospitalized children coming together and making the best of the situation at hand and end the day having Christmas dinner with my new work family.

Pham: My favorite moment is one that probably seems incredibly lackluster:  I came onto an overnight shift knowing that I would most likely be very busy with multiple admissions, and decided to take a walk around during the “calm before the storm” to see how my patients were doing. I popped my head into a room and my patient invited me to watch TV with him.  For 30 minutes, I sat next to his bedside giggling over the doctors on the reality TV show, “NY Med”.  In between our fits of laughter, my patient described his own passion for medicine and his 15 year plan of becoming a pediatric surgeon to treat patients with the same care he has received from CHLA surgeons and gastroenterologists.  Although this intern year is incredibly busy and oftentimes overwhelming, these small simple moments remind me to appreciate residency.  

Are there any tips or tricks that you would say to the incoming class of pediatric residents?

Speicher: This is a tough year; there’s no denying that. It’s really all about how you choose to handle the long and emotional days that will dictate how you make it through. One thing I try to do and recommend to all of the new residents - try to take 5 minutes per day (yes, even on those crazy busy days) and spend time sitting with a family of a chronically sick patient, playing peak-a-boo with a toddler or talking to a 6th grader about how awesome One Direction is. It will add more time to your work day but it will also make all of what we do worthwhile.

Pham: You will inevitably feel overwhelmed and exhausted at least once during this year.  Take time for yourself.  Find the things that make you happy (mine happen to include exploring the food scene in the greater Los Angeles area, spoken word at “Da Poetry Lounge”, and monthly gel manicures) and treat yourself at least every other week.  If you ever feel too overwhelmed to take the time to treat yourself, a great resource will be your co-interns.  One of the best aspects of our residency program is the diversity and support that our house staff provides.

As Drs. Speicher and Pham continue on in their careers, we look forward to welcoming a new class of pediatric residents to CHLA!