Preparing for a General Surgery Residency

During my year off before medical school, I worked as an AmeriCorp volunteer.  Basically, I was broke living in New York City.  I decided to spend my free time cooking.  That's when I started this blog.  I'm not the kind of person who goes to exotic restaurants because I want to try a certain dish.  I usually look up a recipe that sounds tasty and try to make it myself.  A huge part of this is because I am cheap.  My mother fed our family of 3 on $20 a week, so cooking and budgeting have always been intertwined in my eyes.  During my year with AmeriCorps, I decided that I wanted to learn to make jam.  There was a cheap vegetable market nearby that had fresh berries and accepted my food stamps.  I checked out cookbooks from the New York Public Library.  I got pretty comfortable with my jam making skills during that year, and I'm glad I took the time and effort to develop them.

For the past year, I have not had many opportunities to experiment in my kitchen.  I have been busy with my clinical clerkships, preparing for and taking USMLE Step 2, my sub-internships in surgery and medicine, and presenting at meetings for the Association of Surgical Education and the American College of Surgeons.  It has been a busy year.  Early in my third year of medical school, I realized that I wanted to apply to General Surgery for residency.  I have been panicked with the idea that I might not match.  At this point, I have 16 interviews scheduled for residency positions, and the prospect of matching does not seem so far flung.  I only have 1 pass/fail exam left to study for, and my schedule will be nowhere near as grueling as it was during my two months of surgery sub-internship.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Match and the residency application process, here is my simplified version.  You (applicant) apply to a bunch of programs.  Those programs choose whether or not to interview you.  You rank a list of programs, and each program ranks a list of applicants.  All these rank lists go into a super computer, and the super computer spits out a list of who goes to which program.  Unlike any other application process, you do not get to choose where you go.  You can rank programs based on where you would like to go, but you either accept what the super computer tells you, or you turn down a residency position.  With this in mind, there are certain things I do and do not know about my life in July.  I do not know where I will live.  I have a list based on places where I will interview, but I do not know for certain.  I do know that I will be working long hours, at least 12 hours a day (or night), six days a week.  And when I say 12 hours, I mean more like 16 hours.  I know that I will be about $200,000 in debt with my combined loans from college and medical school.  Most of my loans will be eligible for deferment, but the interest rate on my loans from my last two years of medical school is at 8%.  The federal government also stopped providing subsidized loans for medical students after my first year of medical school.  I think they might be trying to increase student debt so that programs like National Health Service Corps attract more professionals to primary care fields.  Or just trying to make becoming a doctor even more cost prohibitive so that people of lower socioeconomic status will not be able to provide care to their own communities, which is one of the central philosophies behind community-based healthcare.  But I digress.

So basically, what I do know about my life starting in July is that I will be busy, and I will be broke.  There are things that I will not have time to do adequately myself, such as walk my dog enough or clean my house.  I may also decide to start paying off some of my educational debt.  These are things I cannot control.  However, there are things I can do to prepare.  I know that I feel better eating food I cooked myself.  It's healthier, cheaper, and produces less waste from packaging.  As preparation for residency, I am working on finding and tinkering with recipes that are fast (or little effort i.e. slow cooker), freeze well, and transport well.  I will also be working on snacks that can fit in a scrub pocket. I've searched a little for tips on life during residency, but nothing really hits home for me, so I decided I would document my journey myself.  I'm sure I'm not the only food obsessed aspiring general surgeon on the web.


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