The Ups & Downs in My Path to Dermatology

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my path to derm

On the job

I promised this post a while back and I think this topic is fitting for my first post of the new year because it’s all about new beginnings. I was not a traditional applicant to dermatology and because I decided late in the game, the months leading up to the match were the most stressful times of my life. I really want to share my experience with you readers so you know that everyone goes through major ups and downs in this process (even if everything seems perfect and peachy on social media!) and that no matter what happens, everything does work itself out in the end. So here we go.

White Coat Ceremony

At my Stanford School of Medicine white coat ceremony in 2009 as a bright eyed MS1.

I went into medical school determined to be an ophthalmologist (for the non med folk, these are doctors who specialize in eyes and eye surgery). A close family friend of mine is a great ophthalmologist and loves his job, which I found very inspiring. I think a part of me also felt pressured to choose early on, because I worried that I couldn’t get into a competitive field unless I started doing research, volunteering, getting to know the faculty, etc. In retrospect, this is silly, because exploring different fields to find out what you like is probably the most important thing you can do as a medical student. But I thought I knew, and so I threw myself into my research on mouse retinas and spending time at the free eye clinic. I really enjoyed working with my amazing mentor and PI (the head of my research lab), but fast forward to the end of third year, after I did two months of ophtho rotations, I realized that I didn’t love the clinical work. Major uh-oh, as I was three months away from residency applications.

I did some quick and frantic soul searching and made many many phone calls and wrote emails to several mentors. One of my early mentors from undergrad suggested that I try a dermatology rotation. Crazy, I thought to myself at the time. I had been interested in dermatology as a first year medical student, but after hearing about the insanely high board scores, the intense type A pre-derm students who were at the top of their medical school classes, and the crazy number of publications you needed to get in, I was completely scared away from the field. I had done a few case reports in dermatology with that mentor as a first year medical student but that was it. How could I possibly compete with all the other amazing derm applicants?! My mentor told me to try anyways, and I listened. This was another great lesson for me, to surround myself with great mentors who inspired and encouraged me even when I didn’t have faith in myself.

I figured I had nothing to lose and in June at the end of third year, one day before my ophthalmology sub-internship was set to start, I dropped out and switched into a four-week dermatology rotation. I think I was actually half hoping that I wouldn’t fall in love with the field, so that I didn’t have to go through the grueling application process. But (as you would expect) I completely fell head over heels for dermatology. One of my favorite clerkships in third year was internal medicine, but I found it really challenging to fully address the large scope of patients’ medical problems under the time pressures of the current medical system. Dermatology combined what I loved about internal medicine (the actual thinking about the medicine!) with super interesting visual diagnoses. I loved the mix of procedures and clinic, the continuity of care I got with patients, and the huge overlap between dermatology and other fields like rheumatology, cancer biology, immunology, etc. In short, I liked it more than any other clerkship I had done and I could really see myself in this field. So I decided to go for it and apply into dermatology, even though the rational side of me was screaming that I couldn’t successfully pull it off.

By the time I decided to apply into dermatology, it was the July of my 4th year of medical school, just two months before residency applications were due. I didn’t know the faculty well and I had very little to show in terms of dermatology research. My board scores were nowhere near the quoted average needed to be a “successful applicant.” At that point I emailed all the faculty to see if anyone had a short term research project, including faculty at neighboring institutions including UC Davis and UCSF (the only other two medical schools in Northern California). I ended up working on and presenting a case report of Graft vs. Host Disease with an amazing young attending named Dr. Kwong in the Stanford dermatology department, and I am so thankful to her still for giving me a chance at that last minute. She ended up writing me one of my letters of recommendation from the derm side. I also met Dr. Maurer, the chief of dermatology at SF General Hospital who is the leader in global health dermatology (another huge interest of mine), who made a special away rotation for me at her hospital in October, a month after I submitted applications. The dermatology residents at Stanford and my Stanford classmates who had matched into derm the years before all helped read my personal statement and application. Writing this out now, I’m again flooded with gratitude for all of these people further along in training than me who took the time to help me when I needed it the most. I remember deciding at that point that I would pay it forward and help out whoever else needed advice from me further down the line (that offer still stands folks!).

Fast forward to November of fourth year. Everyone in my class had gotten interview invitations, but my inbox stayed quiet. Then … the floodgates opened, and not in a good way. I applied to around 85 dermatology programs, and everyday that I opened my inbox I got rejection after rejection after rejection. I remember getting twelve rejections in a day once, and then, the cherry on top, I got rejected from one of my top programs (expected, but hey, I still had dreams). I had just gotten off the Muni (public bus in San Francisco) and it was pouring rain, and I just stood there on the street holding my umbrella and broke into tears. That wasn’t the first time that happened either; breakdowns were pretty common over that period of time (funnily enough, that school actually extended me an interview invite the next week). I had never felt so insecure, so unsure of myself and my accomplishments, and I felt like I had no future in medicine. I started measuring my self worth with each rejection email, and I remember constantly having heart palpitations and a low steady baseline level of stress and feelings of uneasiness. I put an insane amount of pressure on myself, thinking that if I failed at this, I pretty much failed at everything. My fiance at the time (hubby now!) worked in tech in San Francisco, so I thought that if I couldn’t find a way to stay in Silicon Valley, I was letting down our marriage before it even started (none of this pressure came from Matt though; he was supportive and loving every step of the way. He passed me a lot of tissues and gave a lot of hugs – definitely a keeper). It 100% wasn’t a healthy period of time for me, and looking back, I am so thankful to my now-husband Matt, my friends, family, and God for helping me through those moments.

Little things set off anxiety out of proportion to what they should. I remember one day I bumped into someone I knew from undergrad who had recently started as a first year medical student at Stanford. We caught up casually over coffee at LKSC and I shared a little about my application process and what I was experiencing. I will never forget how his friend, another fellow first year medical student who was interested in derm, looked at me incredulously when I explained my late switch. “Well, no offense but…what about you makes you think you can match?” she asked me, cutting me off. “Everyone else has been preparing for years!” Even though she didn’t mean it, this student who was only a few months into first year summed up my fears exactly. I thought about that conversation often, when I was driving or showering or any other time my mind was free to wander. If it seemed that obvious to everyone else that I was fighting an uphill battle, why was I doing it?

Eventually I did get some interviews through December and even January, and most were surprisingly at excellent programs I felt very lucky to be visiting. I felt like I somehow snuck into the interviews, not believing that I really belonged there even on the interview day, kind of like an impostor compared to the other applicants who seemed so confident. Then as I went on more interviews, I found that the interviews themselves were actually not bad at all; I like interacting with and meeting new people and I made a few friends on the interview trail (PS if you missed it before, derm interview tips here and more general residency interview tips here). What I realized throughout the trail was that it didn’t matter that I wasn’t pre-derm from the start or that I didn’t have the highest board scores or number of publications. Every school I visited was really interested in my global health and media background and the gap year I had spent working in medical journalism! I had something different in my application, and even though it was nontraditional, it helped me stand out and gave me another skill set to bring to the department.

NYU Dermatology really stuck out in my mind on interview day; I clicked with the faculty and the residents that I met, and I loved the facilities and specialty clinics there. I never thought that I would actually match there, but I’ll never forget the feeling that shot through me when I opened my red envelope at Stanford Match Day and read “NYU Dermatology.” (More on Match Week drama here, because this is just a freakin’ ridiculous story) I’m halfway through my first year of derm here at NYU and I still pinch myself sometimes because this training program is amazing, and I am so impressed by my co-residents who are not only super smart but also awesome human beings.

Happy Match Day! Celebrating with my fiance and my parents

Happy Match Day! Celebrating with my support system, my parents and then fiance, now hubby

Ultimately, one of the main points I want to get across in this post is that the whole application process is an unpredictable free for all. There’s no way to say whether one person or another who will definitely get into dermatology residency because it’s a totally SUBJECTIVE process. If you are passionate about something that can be related to dermatology in some way (and most things can be), that can make you stand out, so show it in your application! Don’t freak out comparing yourself to other applicants because chances are even the most confident appearing ones have moments of insecurity too. You’re all in the same boat. Also, don’t let the fear of failing stop you from trying. If I had let my worries of embarrassing myself stop me, I would not be a derm resident today. What if I had just continued with my previous life plan and went into a field I didn’t love? I would probably end up unhappy and regretting my actions. Most importantly, don’t let the application process define you and affect how you think of yourself. Any medical student has already worked so hard to make it this far, and no matter what happens, you will be more than fine.

I remember right after Match Day, someone online created an open google spreadsheet of every dermatolgy program in the country along with the applicants who matched there, the degrees those applicants have, what medical school they were coming from, and whether or not they had achieved AOA status (a medical school honor society). Yes, take a moment to laugh at the neuroticism of that endeavor; someone compared each matched applicant to some AOA roster online (who has this amount of time?!). Stanford did not have an AOA chapter, but even if we did, I most likely would not have been in it because my strength is not in test taking. But you know what? I’m fine with that. Good test scores don’t make good doctors, and my ultimate goal is to be a kick ass dermatologist. I hope anyone else in the same boat that I was will feel this way too.

In 2016, I’m going to to try to have more honest and personal blogposts like this one, to show more fully what it’s like to be a physician at work and at home, the good, the bad, and the ugly. It’s going to be a great year!

76 Comments on The Ups & Downs in My Path to Dermatology

  1. Marianne
    January 4, 2016 at 10:48 am (2 years ago)

    Thanks so much for sharing — as someone going through an extremely competive application process right now, I found this post very encouraging!

    Reply
    • Joyce
      January 4, 2016 at 12:27 pm (2 years ago)

      That’s awesome to hear. Good luck Marianne!

      Reply
  2. Jess
    January 4, 2016 at 3:19 pm (2 years ago)

    Your post was so inspirational. Thank you for sharing!! I still have no idea what I want to specialize in and sometimes get really worried about it. But your post helps me remember to relax a little and that it will all work out.

    Reply
    • Joyce
      January 4, 2016 at 7:24 pm (2 years ago)

      Jess, you are so sweet and I have a feeling you’re going to find out your unique path in medicine after doing your clerkships. It will be exciting to see where your interests lie!

      Reply
  3. Alice
    January 4, 2016 at 3:48 pm (2 years ago)

    Hi Joyce!

    I really appreciate you posting such a personal experience here. I’m a newbie blogger (finishing up my last year of undergrad and aspiring ENT physician!) who often struggles with being too personal or impersonal–do you have any advice on how to find a good balance? I love that you’re so generous in helping others–no man is an island :)

    Alice @ ACupofGrateatutde.wordpress.com

    Reply
    • Joyce
      January 4, 2016 at 7:23 pm (2 years ago)

      Hi Alice,
      I don’t often post personal things except A) when I feel my experience could help others in a similar boat (like this post) or B) I’m writing as a form of reflection for myself (like this post on my grandmother)). This goes without saying, but you don’t want to write anything that could compromise your career or make your patients or colleagues doubt you. I don’t write anything that could violate HIPAA either, so experiences with patients aren’t featured on my blog either, though I wish I could share more of them. Hope this helps!

      Reply
  4. Katherine
    January 4, 2016 at 5:33 pm (2 years ago)

    Thanks so much for sharing! I’ve been struggling to get into medical school for the last few years. It’s always so comforting to know that not every doctor has a super perfect history (that would be so boring!). Plus as an eczema patient, I’m sure you’ll make a wonderful dermatologist! You sound very passionate about the field and that always shows when treating patients!

    Reply
  5. Laura Iriogbe
    January 5, 2016 at 12:50 am (2 years ago)

    Wow! Thanks so much for this blogpost, it is super encouraging. Praying for all the best on your path to be a wonderful dermatologist!

    Reply
    • Joyce
      January 5, 2016 at 1:06 pm (2 years ago)

      Thank you Laura!

      Reply
  6. Renée
    January 5, 2016 at 1:02 am (2 years ago)

    Thank you so much for posting this! The entire department and dean at my school told me that I won’t be able match at all because of my low scores/grades, and plus I am couples matching with someone else into the same field. But, I feel a little bit hopeful because I have at least 9 interviews so far (and counting). Everyone back home is surprised that I am getting interviews, and quite frankly I am too. So, fingers crossed! I am happy to hear that you are doing well at NYU; you are a very positive and courageous person, a great role model for others out there like me. Thank you for sharing and giving me some reassurance about this crazy time of life!

    Reply
    • Joyce
      January 5, 2016 at 1:07 pm (2 years ago)

      Renee, thank you so much for sharing your story. Couples matching is an added layer of difficulty (as I’m sure you know); good luck to you and your husband! When this crazy time is all over, you’ll look back and think about how you are so much stronger for having gone through it :)

      Reply
    • Michael
      January 9, 2016 at 8:17 pm (2 years ago)

      Hey Renée!

      I don’t know what your medical school administration has been telling you (often they are clueless, to be honest when it comes to matching into Derm) but according to the APD newsletter posted on SDN (http://www.dermatologyprofessors.org/files/APD%20e-Newsletters/41.%202014%20APD%20Newsletter%20March.pdf) and the Charting Outcomes recently released, you are well on track and have a high likelihood of matching. Just thought I’d bring some facts to the discussion with emotions running at an all time high for applicants. I remember what it was like and sometimes just seeing that will help.

      Reply
      • Joyce
        January 19, 2016 at 10:46 pm (2 years ago)

        I remember reading the NRMP charting outcomes guide when I was applying and having mixed emotions; sometimes it encouraged me and other times it really made me feel down. Take what you will from it, and keep doing what you love!

        Reply
    • Michael
      January 9, 2016 at 8:19 pm (2 years ago)

      Love the site Joyce and I hope you contribute all of your knowledge especially in this area of matching into Derm which can be so foggy for applicants going thru it. I think often Derm faculty are reluctant to just say it, and I think it helps for applicants to hear it from those on the other side.

      Reply
      • Joyce
        January 19, 2016 at 10:42 pm (2 years ago)

        Thanks Michael; I think it helps to have different opinions out there and I received so much help along the way in my own application process that I’m happy to pay it forward.

        Reply
  7. Tara
    January 5, 2016 at 11:28 am (2 years ago)

    Hi Joyce! Thank you for such an honest post. As someone who is studying for step 2 right now and applying later this year.. This all hit pretty close to home in a good way. I feel both inspired and motivated :) good study break reading!

    Reply
    • Joyce
      January 5, 2016 at 1:07 pm (2 years ago)

      I’m so happy that this post helped you! Good luck Tara 😀

      Reply
  8. Ju
    January 5, 2016 at 11:35 am (2 years ago)

    There’s always a perception and reality gap. Thanks for sharing so that we’re reminded that life isn’t always as it seems. :)

    Reply
    • Joyce
      January 5, 2016 at 1:09 pm (2 years ago)

      You’re so right Ju, and I find that with social media people can feel even more isolated and alone. But the curated images on FB or instagram aren’t always the truth, and I wanted to share a more personal story to illustrate that. Thank you for your message!

      Reply
  9. Christina
    January 5, 2016 at 1:03 pm (2 years ago)

    That was a good read! Thanks for sharing Joyce. =)

    Reply
    • Joyce
      January 5, 2016 at 1:10 pm (2 years ago)

      Great to hear from you Christina! Hope you’re doing well!

      Reply
  10. Katherine House
    January 5, 2016 at 3:51 pm (2 years ago)

    Hi Joyce, i havent yet got into medical school. I am going this year for my B.A in science. I have a huge interest in Dermatology, and was skeptical about how hard it is to be a dermatologist. I am not an A nor honor student, but i would say i will try my best! This has gave me motivation to give it my all even though i have family members that doubt me. I actually am a little late in the game i graduated in 2012 with a A.S and now back at it again at the age of 24. I wish i have kept going 4 years ago :\

    -Kathy

    Reply
    • Joyce
      January 5, 2016 at 5:47 pm (2 years ago)

      Hi Kathy, I know friends who have started thinking about medical school much later than you at the age of 29 or 30! It’s never too late if this job is truly your passion. In fact, I think it’s really admirable that you’re going back. Good luck!

      Reply
  11. Mitalee
    January 5, 2016 at 9:42 pm (2 years ago)

    This is the best thing I have read in a long, long time ❤️. So many parts of it ring true, especially the uncomfortable part about the comment from the first year med student! I remember having that world view as a first year student and then being on the receiving end of a similar comment my fourth year and just thinking 🙄. Pre-match students out there, please have some faith! You are more than the sum of your boards scores and publications. Everything works out in the end, even if it doesn’t. Anyway, Joyce, you are an amazing co-resident and we are so so lucky to have you! Xoxoxxxx

    Reply
    • Joyce
      January 5, 2016 at 10:48 pm (2 years ago)

      Mitalee! Thank you so much for taking the time to read my post and to leave such a sweet comment (let’s face it; it’s the best thing you’ve read in a while because it’s more entertaining than Jain :p). As I mentioned in my post, NYU derm is amazing in its own right but what makes it a place I really want to be is our wonderful coresidents. Thanks for being so supportive; I can always count on you for encouragement to keep up my blogging!

      Reply
  12. Elyse
    January 6, 2016 at 2:52 am (2 years ago)

    Great post. I definitely remember the anxiety of this time of year. Dermatology being so late to send out interview invitations is like the tip of the sword. I actually cried in my mentor’s office in October because I’d only gotten one interview and all of my friends were all over the country interviewing at amazing programs. It’s funny now because like you, my season ended up being so wonderful.

    There’s a video of my shock of matching NYU derm. Alex and I were in a state of pure shock the entire match day. We went to dinner and just starred at each other. Then came disbelief – I thought there had been an error and I was just waiting for an email to be like “sorry. you didn’t match.” Then when that arrived I became so nervous that I wasn’t smart enough for such a great program. Self doubt is really dynamic. I’m still really nervous, but I’m also starting to get excited.

    Can’t wait to work together next year. I will definitely take you up on that mentorship offer :)

    http://www.loveandthesky.com

    Reply
    • Joyce
      January 7, 2016 at 11:32 pm (2 years ago)

      Elyse, thank you for sharing your experience as well. You know, after reading a lot of comments from people who have seen my post, I realize that so many people (the majority actually!) felt the same way you and I did – uncertain. You are going to love NYU and we are so excited to meet you next year!

      Reply
  13. Rajaa
    January 6, 2016 at 8:42 am (2 years ago)

    Thank you so much for sharing! This was so inspirational.

    Reply
    • Joyce
      January 7, 2016 at 11:31 pm (2 years ago)

      Thank you for reading Rajaa; I’m glad that my post could help you!

      Reply
  14. M
    January 6, 2016 at 11:34 pm (2 years ago)

    This was such a lovely post. As a nontraditional MSII facing my first boards and with a toddler at home, I am continuously wracked with anxiety and self doubt when hearing how much more my fellow derm-hopefuls are accomplishing. I appreciate your reminder not to compare ourselves with others and to know it is not all about board scores/publications. It was so inspiring to hear your experience. Thank you.

    Reply
    • Joyce
      January 7, 2016 at 11:30 pm (2 years ago)

      M, I cannot imagine going through med school or residency with a child! That is an added level of complexity that I have so much respect and admiration for. Cheering you on, mommy!

      Reply
  15. Chelsya
    January 8, 2016 at 7:44 pm (2 years ago)

    I just found your blog through an instagram and I’m so glad I did! You’re such an inspiration! I can’t wait to read more of your posts :) I’m only a sophomore undergrad but I’m planning to take the mcats soon and I’m crazy worried. But you and many other med bloggers have been giving me such motivation and inspiration. Thanks! I hope you have a lovely start to 2016!

    Reply
    • Joyce
      January 19, 2016 at 10:43 pm (2 years ago)

      Thank you; the MCATs are the first hurdle to get through — good luck!

      Reply
  16. Angela
    January 9, 2016 at 6:14 pm (2 years ago)

    Thank you so much for sharing! As a current MS3 who’s hoping to pursue derm without great numbers, this post really resonated with me and was very comforting.

    Reply
    • Joyce
      January 19, 2016 at 10:44 pm (2 years ago)

      Hi Angela, thanks for your comment. I think anyone who has a story to tell and experiences to show why they’re so passionate about dermatology has a great chance. Good luck!

      Reply
  17. Sabrina
    January 10, 2016 at 8:25 pm (2 years ago)

    Thanks so much for this!! It’s through posts like these that I am slowly learning about the medical field <3

    Reply
  18. Cynthia
    January 11, 2016 at 11:52 am (2 years ago)

    Thank you so much for sharing. Definitely a great reminder to have faith and not compare to others!

    stethoscopesscrubsandstyle.blogspot.com

    Reply
  19. Michelle
    January 13, 2016 at 12:36 am (2 years ago)

    Thanks for sharing Joyce! Did you take a year off?

    Reply
    • Joyce
      January 18, 2016 at 9:51 pm (2 years ago)

      Hi Michelle, I did take a year off in between my 2nd and 3rd years to pursue a fellowship in global health / medical journalism. I was always interested in journalism and global health separately, so the chance to combine both of those interests was like a dream come true! I described my year off in more detail here.

      Reply
  20. Alyssa
    February 8, 2016 at 3:51 pm (2 years ago)

    Thank you so much for writing this amazing post! I’m an MS3 rotating in NYC and I’m very interested in dermatology but find myself feeling discouraged when other students, residents, even my medical school administration act like I’m crazy for wanting to apply to such a competitive specialty. I am from a Caribbean medical school and although I have the “right scores,” most people say I don’t have a chance because of the school I attended. It can be pretty depressing at times because I haven’t found another field that I love as much as derm! Your post gave me hope that if I keep working hard towards my dream, even if I’m not exactly like the other applicants, sometimes things just work out the way they are supposed to (let’s hope in my favor! 😊)

    Reply
    • Joyce
      February 9, 2016 at 7:08 pm (2 years ago)

      Hi Alyssa, thank you for leaving a comment. I think you have a great attitude and I wish you all the best of luck in your path!

      Reply
  21. Celeste
    February 9, 2016 at 2:08 am (2 years ago)

    Hi Joyce, serendipitously chanced upon your blog whilst trying to figure out if I should be using Anki as a study technique for derm accronyms! Your path to dermatology is exactly the same as mine! Right from the get go of wanting to do ophthal as a medical student up and even having some consultant telling me that I needed to be a straight A’s, top 3, Dean’s honours student to get into dermatology ( I wasn’t one and had felt very upset when I heard that- I thought I was a goner!). Flash forward to now- I am in my 2nd year of dermatology residency (in Australia, where I am based, I am a 2nd year dermatology registrar) and thoroughly enjoying it. Thank you for sharing your post! Our paths might cross at some stage/some conferences!

    Reply
    • Joyce
      February 9, 2016 at 6:47 pm (2 years ago)

      Celeste, thanks so much for leaving a comment and sharing your experience! How strangely similar our stories are :) I personally LOVE Anki as I’m realizing more and more that derm studying = memorizing hundreds of facts that I’ll forget instantly if not for repetition. Do you use it as well? I hope we meet in the future as well, perhaps at AAD or another international meeting? Would love to hear how the training is in Australia and compare notes!

      Reply
  22. Tomi Seriki
    February 24, 2016 at 1:00 pm (2 years ago)

    I never comment on most blog posts that i read, BUT THANK YOU so much for posting such an honest experience. I am a second year medical student who has been interested in derm but has definitely not fully acted on my interests out of fear and not feeling competitive enough. I would love to talk to you more about all of this and pick your brain on global health derm! had no idea that was a thing and I have been trying to see how i can marry my global/public health interests with medicine. Again, THANK YOU. I needed that.

    Reply
    • Joyce
      February 25, 2016 at 10:01 pm (2 years ago)

      Hi Tomi, thank you for taking the time to leave a comment! There is definitely a need for dermatologists in global health, and the AAD (american academy of dermatology) even sponsors third year dermatology residents to go abroad and do visiting elective clerkships abroad. Lots of need for innovation and change in that arena!

      Reply
  23. Anonymous
    March 5, 2016 at 4:56 am (2 years ago)

    Dear Joyce,
    I applied this cycle to dermatology residency and I’m now dealing with the anxiety of waiting to finding out the results. Let me know if there’s anything you did that helped. Something that’s kind of bothering me is that I interviewed at some of my dream programs like NYU and UMN and I didn’t receive a ranked to match call like some people did. Can you comment on these? Did you get one from NYU? Are they really necessary? Do I still have a chance at those two places even if I didn’t get a call? I would really appreciate your thoughts. It’s just that it’s a really stressful time.
    Thank you!

    Reply
    • Joyce
      March 7, 2016 at 7:58 pm (2 years ago)

      Hi,
      I think this period of time is so stressful, but there’s really not much more you can do beyond what you’ve already done. According to the NRMP (and this was repeated to me at every interview), programs are not allowed to give ranked to match phone calls, so I would ABSOLUTELY not worry if you haven’t gotten one. Also, “ranked to match” technically means the applicant is ranked within the number of slots that are available, but at most programs, they actually go much further down the list (twenty or thirty down!) than just the top three to eight ranked applicants. So I wouldn’t use the phone call as any sort of gauge of your chances at matching. Good luck!

      Reply
  24. Erin
    March 12, 2016 at 10:41 am (2 years ago)

    So grateful that I found this post! I am a current second year student who has only recently decided that I think that I want to go into derm, and I have already gone through the feeling of it is “too late” for me since I have no experience and have showed no prior interest in the field. THANK YOU for giving us other semi last-minuters hope! I have always wanted to go into family medicine, but over the past few months dermatology has really caught my eye because of the combination of continued care and procedures…you can imagine the pressure I feel now going into Step 1 in a few months haha! Hoping to do a year of research between my 3rd and 4th years to give me a better chance, but it’s always nice to know that I’m not alone with the occasional feelings of self-doubt. Thank you for being an inspiration!

    Reply
    • Joyce
      March 13, 2016 at 11:13 pm (2 years ago)

      Hi Erin, thank you for your kind comment. I think a year of research helps with anyone’s application and also gives you more time to explore the field further. Good luck!

      Reply
  25. J Park
    March 15, 2016 at 1:05 pm (2 years ago)

    Hey Joyce,

    what a nice Blog! and thank you for sharing such an wonderful story and lesson 😀

    I have avoided all forms of media throughout the process in hopes to keep myself calm (ignorance is bliss). But now that I received a long-awaited email “You have Matched” yesterday, I decided to browse online to see how other people’s experiences have been applying into Dermatology. Now I know that episodes of palpitation at most random times throughout the day was something that was not unique to me! haha

    I have a question!
    Are you doing long distance with your husband right now? How is that going?? I will find out for sure on Match Day (this Friday)… but it seems likely that I will be long distance with my current fiance during derm residency. Poo poo but what you gonna do. I just feel so blessed that I even got into the field.

    Reply
    • Joyce
      March 20, 2016 at 1:38 pm (2 years ago)

      Congratulations on matching! You know by now where you matched so I don’t know if this applies anymore, but my husband actually quit his job in SF and applied for new jobs in NYC. He was able to find another startup in New York that was an exciting next step for his career, so it luckily worked out for us. I know of several couples (engaged or married) who are doing long distance with their partners and though it is tough, the good thing about dermatology is that you have most of your weekends off so you can travel to see each other :)

      Reply
  26. Tiffany
    December 5, 2016 at 11:48 pm (11 months ago)

    Thank you so much for making this blog. I cried so hard while reading it. I am a first year medical student, and I have some interest in derm. But I have been struggling really hard with my classes and tests. Literally, tonight, I was at a derm event and the residents were so smart and very intimidating. A lot of them talked about how well they did and how important it was to honor every class, score well on Step 1, start research early, etc. I was so overwhelmed and scared. It is just my first semester, and I already feel inadequate. Majority of the people I have talked to said the same thing about how you need to do so well and start early. I am so glad I found you and your blog to show me that this is not the only way. I still have a long way to go before deciding, but I am glad to know that I have a chance if I am really interested. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!

    Reply
    • Joyce
      December 6, 2016 at 7:33 am (11 months ago)

      Tiffany, thank you for leaving me a note and I’m so sorry you felt that way! We have all been there at one point or another. I know I’ve been there many times. My advice is to focus on doing well in medical school first and foremost and finding out what you really like and are passionate about. You will shine in those areas! Wishing you the best of luck!

      Reply
  27. Jarad
    December 13, 2016 at 3:21 pm (10 months ago)

    Not sure how many people will read this but I would also caution the other way. Sure this beautiful and no doubt highly intelligent woman from STANFORD medical school decided to apply at the last minute and suprise, suprise….she got in. But what if you aren’t beautiful or didn’t go to Stanford medical school…or didn’t have amazing Step 1 scores. All I would say is I would caution an overly optimistic, you can achieve anything with enough hard work attitude as well. I went to a normal medical school (Texas Tech) and had an average Step 1 and very high scores on everything else (shelf exams and Step 2). I started from year 1 doing derm things (volunteer work, any projects, started the D.I.G. at my school) have now done 2 years of derm research where I have been a sub-investigator on over 36 different protocols. I’m not socially awkward and in fact everyone loves me at my fellowship but it does not have a direct path to a residency spot like perhaps some do. Although also not great information on all of this as well. I now have 15+ derm publications and none of this matters. I have never gotten more interviews (4) than I did when I was in medical school. Think about that….I have two years more of derm research experience and have book chapters and articles in well respected derm journals and my application is undoubtedly way more impressive now but yet have gotten less interviews than before I had all of this stuff. I thought I could overcome this with hard work and determination and granted I do hear stories about people that match after applying like 6 times but I would just say some amount of realism is good also. Sure if you are beautiful and went to Stanford and have like a 240 you will probably get in. But if you are like me and have in the 220’s on step 1 it does not matter if your Step 2 was in the 260’s or that you have tons of experience they just won’t ever get over how you did on one test (Step 1) on one day of your life. Seems insane to me but this is how it is. So for every story of overcoming adversity or what have you, I would also say be realistic and if you don’t match realize that unless you truly slipped through the cracks and were AOA, had really amazing board scores, etc. the research fellowship prob won’t help you that much.

    Reply
    • Jarad
      December 13, 2016 at 3:30 pm (10 months ago)

      Also forgot to mention one thing. In the two years I’ve done fellowship the people that I have seen match from research fellowships all had 250+ Step 1 and were AOA. Two of the three that matched from my program since I’ve been here had previously matched to rads and then changed their mind. The third one was a FMG but had 250+ Step scores, was AOA, and did IM residency and chief year before applying. As far as her story above…ya you can change last minute into the field and as long as your scores are high enough they don’t care. They care about very little other than your scores as I have known people from my med school that matched that could barely talk to normal people because they were so socially awkward but they had 260 on Step 1 so they matched. You can change last minute, you can back out of other fields last minute and decide you want to do derm and they will pick those people over people who have shown consistent dedication to the field for now 6 years. Yes I’m bitter but this is also the way it is. I don’t know what the right answer is as far as choosing people but I do think consistently displaying your passion for the field would count for something but again they would take the person that decided to change 1 week before they put in their application if they have impressive scores and will look good advertised on their website. This is the reality of such a competitive field.

      Reply
      • shweta
        January 16, 2017 at 10:10 am (9 months ago)

        Hi Jarad,

        I read your story and I am in medical school right now and it definitely cautions me. I am considering doing a research year now but I am tentative about it because I probably will not be AOA. I have a good step 1 score/ excellent pre clinical grades but my clinical grades have been average/above average mix. I would love to hear your thoughts. I am currently thinking about doing a research year between M3 and M4 right now.

        Reply
    • Joyce
      December 13, 2016 at 9:01 pm (10 months ago)

      Hi Jarad, thank you for leaving your comment. I agree that everyone’s experience in the match is unique, and as I mentioned in my post, the whole application process is an unpredictable free for all. I know people from mid-tier medical schools who matched at top derm programs and I know people including several of my classmates at Stanford who did not match into dermatology, despite having worked with professors in the field and having higher board scores than me. It’s a very subjective process that doesn’t follow any rules. One of the biggest reasons I wrote this post is to tell people that they should not let the application process define how they think of themselves because it is such a crapshoot.

      Reply
      • ?
        January 9, 2017 at 5:56 am (9 months ago)

        Joyce- thank you for your courage to share your story, your honesty and details have clearly meant a lot to many. Best wishes on your journey.

        Jarad- your story of caution is helpful (later research vs step 1 vs other details). I was thinking the same thought about Stanford as well. But what’s up with all the “beautiful” references? Since when are residents selected by how ‘beautiful’ – unless this is part of the hidden selection process in derm? Who defines beauty anyways- do you mean good skin?
        It’s possible I’m missing something

        Reply
  28. Tiffany J
    December 13, 2016 at 4:38 pm (10 months ago)

    Hi, Joyce! Thank you so much for your post. I graduated from undergrad 5 years ago and since have been working in roles that are focused on community development and working in shelters. I have always had a passion to become a dermatologist but very early on got discouraged. Now I am interested in starting back up and living out my dreams. Do you have any ideas on where I can start? Someone to talk to that can help map out career exploration and the next steps? Thank you so much for your assistance!

    Reply
    • Joyce
      December 13, 2016 at 9:02 pm (10 months ago)

      Hi Tiffany, I’m glad that you are interested in dermatology. I think the first step is to focus on getting into medical school, whether that involves taking classes to fulfill premed requirements or exploring medicine through shadowing clinics or doing research. I suggest speaking with a career counselor at your school or with a physician that you know who practices near you who can guide you on next steps. Good luck!

      Reply
  29. shweta
    January 14, 2017 at 10:35 pm (9 months ago)

    Hi Joyce!

    Thank you for your story. It is incredibly helpful and encouraging. I am in the dilemma where I have a good step 1 score (254) but my third year grades are not as great. 2 A-s’, 2 H ( but on an elective and neurology). I have medicine/ surgery/psych/family med but I suspect these grades will be a combination of A’s and A-s. I am looking at research years now but I’m worried that in the long run because of lower grades even doing research year is not going to be helpful/work out for me. I’m unsure if I should further pursue dermatology at all and reading Jarad’s story above Im worried I will constantly end up in a situation where I will not match.

    Reply
    • Joyce
      January 15, 2017 at 8:24 pm (9 months ago)

      Hi Shweta, everyone’s application is different and unique. If you wholeheartedly want to do derm and you love it as a field, go for it! Make connections with faculty in the field, do research, have strong LOR and personal statement. Put in your best shot. If you don’t try applying then it’s definitely a no match outcome in derm, right? And if you don’t apply but you love it then you’ll always wonder.

      Reply
      • shweta
        January 16, 2017 at 10:12 am (9 months ago)

        Thanks for the encouragement Joyce. I am looking into research years now and hoping something good pans out ! I do agree that I might regret it if I don’t at least try. Hoping to pull up my grades the rest of this semester!

        Reply
  30. Sara Rampersaud
    January 21, 2017 at 11:45 am (9 months ago)

    Wow. What a powerful, universal message. I own a small business (skin care), and stumbled across your blog researching potential new ingredients. I am so moved by your honesty and vulnerability, and even though it is within the context of medical school, I can certainly relate to the feelings of insecurity, self-doubt and comparing our own insides to someone else’s outsides. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been turned away from new stores, subscription boxes, magazines, etc., and each time I struggled to separate my worth from other peoples’ acceptance of my work. Through my obstacles, I have come to find that in letting go of the outcome and simply placing one foot in front of the other, things have a way of working out in their own time, even if the result isn’t what I first had hoped for. Every day I remind myself that while I love my work, it doesn’t define me and that I do what I do because I enjoy it. Thank you for the message!

    Reply
    • Joyce
      January 22, 2017 at 10:46 pm (9 months ago)

      Sara, thank you so much for your comment! Reading it really touched me. We get stuck in a bubble within medicine and to hear that you go through similar feelings in an entirely different field reminds me that we are all alike and going through experiences together. I’m so glad that my story was able to resonate with you in some way!

      Reply
  31. Ana Luiza Mapurunga
    January 26, 2017 at 2:18 pm (9 months ago)

    Very moving story! Thank you so much for sharing it! You’re are definitely passioned about the area and I saw myself when you described what you liked Derm. Thank you for showing me that real people still stand a chance. Congratulations!! It was well-deserved! You’re truly an inspiration!

    Reply
    • Joyce
      January 26, 2017 at 10:22 pm (9 months ago)

      Thank you for your comment Ana! Good luck :)

      Reply
  32. Stefany
    January 29, 2017 at 11:14 pm (9 months ago)

    Dear Joyce,

    What you wrote just made me cry. Your story is so beautiful and real. Thank you for being so open and honest …. your personality seems to radiate through your words and I am so happy for you that you got what your heart desired. I dont know you but it sounds like you will make an amazing dermatologist!!
    I am planning on applying this year and I have been praying for guidance and clarity and your blog may have been exactly that so thank you!! More and more i feel a strong conviction/calling for dermatology…. i have felt this for years now I have just been trying to find other options as I felt what you described … unsure how to make this happen and fear of unknown/rejection (wow writing that just helped me identify that). I have an average step 1 score and will likely have some 4 papers published assuming they get accepted… but I dont have any doctors in my family, im not familiar with the process {or know “any loopholes” or really know anyone that can help me .. I am also an IMG. Anyway Im so passionate for this so as of today I have decided I will go full force with this. If you have any tips or recommendations where to go ( I would move anywhere) please let me know it would mean the world to me! Will be praying for you, hubbie, and your new life :)

    PS. this is the first blog i have ever commented on – i just had to lol

    Reply
    • Mia
      February 19, 2017 at 10:24 pm (8 months ago)

      Hey!

      How did the interviews go for you? I am also an IMG and I’m trying to apply for dermatology. But it seems everytime I speak about it, someone tells me it’s way beyond my reach and that I shouldn’t even try. I want to know more about the process in the hopes that I can improve my chances of matching later.

      Ps I still have about three years to work on my resume hence the need to know what I can possible do :)

      Reply
      • Joyce
        February 22, 2017 at 11:44 am (8 months ago)

        Hi Mia, you should check out my post on dermatology interviews in which I lay out the whole process along with tips and tricks. I know IMG who have matched into derm in the past after doing research for 1-2 years at a well established derm department. It is possible but you just need to have a strong application!

        Reply
  33. Gabriela Cervantes
    March 14, 2017 at 1:43 pm (7 months ago)

    Dear Joyce,

    Thank you for sharing your experiences. I am a doctor from Perú, I love dermatology too. How about the opportunities for foreing doctors,like me, to do this specialty in USA?, Is it true that doing the dermatology’s residency for foreing doctors is impossible?

    Reply
    • Joyce
      March 20, 2017 at 8:40 am (7 months ago)

      Hello, I know of a few foreign medical graduates who got into dermatology after doing a few years of research at a strong derm department with a very committed mentor. It is possible but may take some extra time!

      Reply
  34. Kavin Fatehchand
    March 20, 2017 at 3:50 pm (7 months ago)

    Hi Joyce,

    This was great! I am an MD-PhD student and I am really interested in Derm. I am trying to figure out the best way to put myself forward (other than step scores) and this helped!

    Kavin

    Reply
    • Joyce
      March 22, 2017 at 9:46 pm (7 months ago)

      Hi Kavin, it’s a great field :) good luck!

      Reply
  35. justin
    August 30, 2017 at 1:55 am (2 months ago)

    Hi Joyce,
    I am so happy to have found your blog. Although I am in a different situation than the one you were in, I also feel that I “snuck” may way into medical school. But now that I am here, I definitely want to increase my chances of possibly going into derm. My question is this, as a first year medical student with no clinical research experience, how do I go about asking faculty for research positions?

    Reply
    • Joyce
      September 4, 2017 at 5:34 pm (1 month ago)

      Hi Justin, I actually went through the faculty webpages and looked at people’s research interests, and cold emailed them. Another way would be to meet with the department’s medical school advisor or go through your own medical school advisor or upper classmen to get introduced to faculty who would want to accept medical students for research. Good luck!

      Reply

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