For medical students, those are two words that have been in the back of their brains since their first day of classes. It’s the day when they find out where they’ll do their residency. The day they find out what medical facility will be guiding them as they really get down to business with those two letters — Dr. — in front of their names. The day they find out what city they’ll be living in for the next few years, and what kind of hands-on training they’ll get after four years of hard work.
It’s a big deal. And for fourth-year students at Marshall’s Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine, that day is Friday, March 17.
Dr. Kaitlan Harvey, better known by her family and friends as “Kadi,” remembers well the feeling that Match Day brings and that moment when, as an aspiring physician, you find out the path where your dreams will be taking you. Today, she is a resident physician in Marshall’s family medicine residency program. Last year at this time, her future was unknown.
“Match Day is the goal you work toward from the first day of medical school. It feels almost unattainable at times when you’re studying for boards and taking endless exams. The excitement is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced.”
The preparation for that day is intense, Dr. Harvey said. It involves researching, interviewing and ranking the places you want to spend the next years of your life, she said. Meanwhile, the programs have to rank their list of applicants.
“There’s no guarantee where you will end up,” she said. “Once you submit, you’re stuck anxiously waiting until the day you open your match letter.
“Leading up to Match Day, I was so anxious. I really wanted to stay at Marshall for residency, but I knew there would be many other applicants, not only from Marshall, but from all over, that would have a lot more to offer the program than I could. I couldn’t wait for the day to finally come so I could have a plan for where I would be training for the next three to four years. I had a couple of other programs I had applied to that I would have been happy with as well, but my heart was set on staying here to train at Marshall.”
She was one of the fortunate medical students who opened her letter to find that she would get her first choice, and her family was there by her side when she did.
“On that day, my husband, parents and two younger brothers were there with me,” Dr. Harvey said. “The way it works is they called our name, and we each walked up on stage to receive our letter with the results — but we couldn’t open it yet. Once we all had our letters and were seated with our families, we opened them together.
“I remember quickly scanning the first few lines for ‘Marshall’ and the joy and relief that washed over me once I saw it. It’s so surreal, to realize everything you’ve been working for has all been worth it, all of it for that exact moment. As soon as it registered, I immediately scanned the room to see my friends’ faces in an attempt to anticipate their results as well. I couldn’t wait to hear where they would end up!”
The Class of 2022 celebrated together afterward for the rest of the day, she said.
“My classmates felt like my extended family. Four years of medical school with all of the ups, downs, triumphs and tribulations creates a strong bond, for sure. I’m so proud of the class I graduated with and everything that they’re doing. It was so incredible to celebrate so many futures in one day.”
For Dr. Harvey, who grew up in the small town of Fort Gay in Wayne County, West Virginia, it was a milestone in a lifelong journey of caring for others.
“I have always had a passion for taking care of people in their time of need,” she said. “Even as a child, when my cousins and I would be playing outside, for example, if someone scraped their knee, I jumped at the opportunity to comfort them and get the wound cleaned and bandaged.
“Nothing compares to the feeling of making a difference in someone else’s life, especially when they’re at their most vulnerable. Over time, as my interests grew, I realized that medicine would be where my passions and my heart for people would best align.”
At 18, she was among the first group of students accepted into Marshall’s accelerated B.S./M.D. program, a streamlined program that allows students to get their bachelor’s and medical degrees within seven years.
It was “an absolute blessing,” Dr. Harvey said. “It gave me a chance to reach my dream of being a physician — something that would have been nearly impossible without their support. People in my family and community rarely go to college, let alone medical school. No one in my family ever had a career in health care at all and it was all brand new to me.”
She’s glad she chose Marshall for other reasons as well.
“The support you feel from the community and faculty is phenomenal. You know the school actually cares about your mental and physical health as well as your success as a student and is there to help and encourage you every step of the way.”
Residency has been the most difficult but most fulfilling thing she’s ever experienced, and despite the long hours, Dr. Harvey said she knows she’s where she’s meant to be.
“I feel such a deep satisfaction when working with my patients. The feeling is truly incomparable,” she said. “I can feel myself growing and learning immensely as a physician throughout this year so far. The faculty spends a lot of time discussing our growth and making sure we have what we need to be successful.”
The Huntington area is home, she said, and though she loves to travel, her heart is with the people of West Virginia, Huntington and Marshall University, and she hopes to serve them throughout her career.
“I look forward to a career in which I will continue to learn and hopefully teach as well. Having the privilege of being a physician is such an incredible honor and responsibility, and I do not take it lightly. If anything, I am motivated even more, each and every day, to be the best physician I can be for my patients.”