Match Day – every veterinarian is all too familiar with this day. On this single day, some will experience jubilation at moving forward, while others may feel defeated and wonder what is next for them.
As for me, I have experienced both outcomes on the road to becoming a veterinary oncology specialist. The latter more than once. Here’s what happened when I didn’t match.
My First Match, and My First Scramble
In the beginning of my career path, I was excited to match for one of my top choices for a rotating internship. I was so happy to be aligning with my career goals. Upon completing my rotating internship, I took the next step and applied for a residency.
This is where I hit the proverbial wall – I found out that I did not match.
Unable to continue to a residency right away left me discouraged and uncertain. I had to do the thing we all dread – scramble. I was lucky enough to be surrounded by a supportive team who agreed to accept me as a specialty intern at that same hospital. It was this unplanned option that kept me moving forward and always gaining knowledge and experience along the way.
Match Round 2: Internship vs. Residency
Not willing to give up the following year, in hopes of continuing my pursuit of a specialty, I applied for both a residency and a second specialty internship. This time, I did match for a second specialty internship.
I was left with a feeling that is difficult to describe. I experienced both the thrill of knowing I would get to continue on my desired path and the discouragement that it would take longer to reach my goal. A lot longer than I had imagined.
Match Round 3: Becoming a Hospitalist
After completing the second specialty internship, I once again did not match for a residency. I thought I was going to have to give up my dream of becoming of a veterinary oncologist. It was at this point in my career when I realized I could no longer continue to apply for internships when I did not know if it would further my career.
With feeling the pressure of my student loans, I started to look for job opportunities.
Initially, I thought I would have to leave the veterinary oncology field and was looking at alternative options. One of my mentors at the time recommended I look for a position as a hospitalist – where in the right department, I could continue in support of the oncology field. I was extremely fortunate to be able to find my current position at The Oncology Service – Richmond, where I am an Associate Veterinarian of Oncology.
An Oncology Associate Veterinarian (OAV) is a doctor that practices exclusively in oncology. The OAV partners with board-certified Oncologists providing continuity of care for existing oncology patients and their owners. This position has allowed me to work directly with an oncologist, stay up to date in the field, as well as continue to grow.
Match Round 4: Matching With My Residency
After being employed in my current position for a little over a year, I was notified that Ethos was sponsoring a medical oncology residency. The medical oncologist encouraged me to apply. This time I was a match, and I was selected for the residency position.
My Final Advice
While Match Day can seem like the end of the world if you do not match, I recommend that you take time to process, regroup, and keep going. Surround yourself with a strong support system both in and outside of the veterinary community that will be there for you. Seek alternative options, as they do exist. Keep learning and moving forward. Do not be afraid to ask for guidance and support.
I am proof that you can still reach your goals even if it takes a slightly longer, somewhat convoluted path to get there.
Written by Katilee A. Jacobs, DVM