Match Week, when graduating medical students learn whether they matched into a residency position in their specialty of choice and where they will spend the next 3-7 years of their lives, brings a roller coaster of emotions for students and their families. Seeing the ups and downs that students vulnerably shared on Twitter inspired me to share my own recent disappointments in a Twitter thread.

I ran for a chief resident position two months ago and lost.

To be honest, losing the election sucked. It felt like an invalidation of everything I’d been doing for my program and my co-residents even before starting residency. After some reflection, however, I remembered a couple of things.

First, I keep two documents on my computer:

  1. Failure CV: I took inspiration for this from Dr. Johannes Haushofer after a thread he wrote about his own CV of failures on Twitter. In this document, I record every opportunity that I was rejected from, ranging from college and medical school applications to scholarships and elected positions.
  2. Sunshine Folder: This is by no means a unique idea either and has popped up in various forms from multiple people, but I personally was inspired by a thoughtful essay written in JAMA by Dr. Adam Cifu. I save every award, scholarship, superlative, and positive evaluation I’ve received in this folder.

You might wonder, why not just keep a sunshine folder? Why write down the negatives? Well, my failure CV reminds me that failure is not final. I will (should!) experience rejection many, many times, but it doesn’t define me. And each rejection makes future successes that much sweeter. I read through my failure CV and my sunshine folder and came away proud that I went for something I wanted even though I didn’t get it. Only by going for the opportunities I wanted and facing that risk of failure was I able to achieve the successes written in my sunshine folder.

Second, in my sadness about not being elected chief resident, I’d forgotten to broaden my perspective. I still have many opportunities for leadership within and outside of my program. Not being chief means I’ll actually have time to pursue those opportunities. Plus, my colleagues who were elected are incredible, accomplished, and deserving people, too. I have no doubt that they will do an excellent job. My disappointment does not take away from their success and their amazingness.

Ultimately, I’ve come to peace with the fact that I lost this election, and I’m back to work serving my communities, training to be a better doctor and a better person, as I always have and always will.

I am grateful for the positive response to my original Twitter thread. I hope it serves as a reminder that failure is part of how we grow, and that every failure fuels the successes that follow.

More Resources

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