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Match Day 2019

CU School of Medicine

March 15, 2019 - On the first day of medical school four years ago, Austin Butterfield, MD, gave members of the class of 2019 permission to experience emotions – to share laughter, worry, joy and sadness with each other and with patients.

On Friday, Butterfield, an assistant professor of psychiatry at University of Colorado School of Medicine, expanded that permission.

As keynote speaker, he encouraged the 169 students, who gathered with family and friends Friday morning for the Match Day ceremony at the Hyatt Regency Denver at the Convention Center, to embrace their natural ability to experience more than one emotion at a time. 

Accepting two seemingly contradictory emotions will make the long, hard days of residency more fulfilling and less stressful, he said.

"There's never going to be a time in residency when you're not feeling pulled in lots of directions,” Butterfield said. “There is never going to be a time in residency when you're not feeling just a little overwhelmed."

When he began his residency, Butterfield believed that doctors should not show any emotion around patients. His attending physician set him straight, telling him, "Your human brain is designed to feel. Your human brain is designed to connect to other human brains on an emotional level."

Sharing emotions is a way of showing support for yourself and others, he said.

"The purpose of emotions is to help us organize our behaviors. The purpose of emotions is to help us figure out how we can adapt to what's going on around us,” he said. “If we give ourselves permission to do that, we're going to have the best patient experiences we can have. The patients will love you if you are able to maintain your humanity."

Student speaker Hogan Slack recalled the challenges of each stage of medical school including the excitement and trepidation he felt when choosing a specialty. The experience reminded him of an excerpt from Sylvia Plath's novel “The Bell Jar.”

"I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story. From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor ... and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America ... and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn't quite make out. ... I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest."

Slack recognized that Match Day contains a spectrum of emotions.

"Finally matching can feel so liberating, as you finally know your fate and can start picturing your life at a program which you got a glimpse of during interview day," Slack said.

"It can be so exciting to think about meeting co-residents, moving to a new city or staying in a city that you love. It also means once again leaving behind all of the other futures you have imagined while on the interview trail, and this can make the day bittersweet."

Each year in mid-March, graduating medical school students across the country find out simultaneously where they will perform their residencies, which can last between three and seven years. The students have visited residency programs and ranked the places where they hope to get training. Those places have ranked the students they want for their programs. When all that ranking is done, the National Residency Matching Program puts it all together to determine the match for more than 19,000 graduating medical students from across the United States.