Skip to main content

You are listening to Talking U & Med Student Life:

Episode 108 – Antigone and Ira, successful couples match and recent graduates at University Of Utah School Of Medicine

Jun 27, 2018

“Am I really going to derail the path that I’m on right now to line up with somebody else?” Antigone and Ira have different versions of how they met, but it was the journey here to UUSOM that brought them together. We talk about what it meant to be a couple in med school and the big decision that Ira made to line his path up with Antigone’s. They share how it felt to spend a year apart, and finally, how their fourth year was “organized chaos”.

Episode Transcript

Dr. Chan: What did it mean to be a couple in medical school? Why does one change their path to line up with someone else's path? How do you manage a year apart during medical school, and what does organized chaos look like during fourth year? Today on Talking Admissions and Med Student Life, I interview Antigone and Ira, a successful couples match and recent graduates here at the University of Utah School of Medicine.

Announcer: Helping you prepare for one of the most rewarding careers in the world, this is Talking Admissions and Med Student Life with your host, the Dean of Admissions at the University of Utah School of Medicine, Dr. Benjamin Chan.

Dr. Chan: Okay. Well, welcome to another edition of Talking Admissions and Med Student Life. I have two super great guests today, Antigone and Ira. Hello.

Antigone: Hello.

Ira: Hello.

Dr. Chan: Thank you for coming. Fourth year medical students, soon to graduate . . .

Ira: Woohoo.

Antigone: Woo.

Dr. Chan: All right. We're going to start back in the beginning. Let's get it out of the way first. How did you two meet?

Antigone: Well, that depends on who you ask.

Dr. Chan: I'm asking you right now, Antigone.

Antigone: Well, I know, but we have different versions of the story.

Dr. Chan: And somewhere is the truth.

Antigone: And somewhere is the truth, yes. We first met during my interview at the U.

Dr. Chan: Really?

Antigone: Yes. Ira was the second year tour guide during that day. So he took us on a tour. We met that day. But then we didn't meet again until I came for second look day. I brought my very Greek mother with me, or rather my very Greek mother wanted to come with me. She met Ira. He was our tour guide again that day. My mom thought he was like the cutest thing and asked him all the questions about medical school.

Dr. Chan: Had you told your mom about him ahead of time, or was this a completely independent assessment, unbiased?

Antigone: No. It was totally independent, because I hadn't seen him since February when I interviewed and now it was May or April. But she asked him a million questions and sat next to him on the bus, and I sat about eight rows behind them on the bus and then promised to never interact with him again. And then I think we met one more time during orientation week.

Dr. Chan: You're hitting all the data points here, that's great. It's building towards something.

Antigone: Yes. We just talked about med school, and he told me if I ever needed help with anything, I could reach out. Then after the first week or so of school I had just done horribly on my first foundations test, and I saw Ira in the English Hub, the England Hub, whatever.

Dr. Chan: The little cafeteria.

Antigone: The cafeteria downstairs is and he told me I looked like I needed a drink. Then we went out for drinks like a month later, but that's how we met. Then after we met for drinks, it's sort of just . . . here we are. We're getting married.

Dr. Chan: It just happened.

Antigone: It just happened.

Dr. Chan: Okay. So that's version A. Ira, what's version B?

Ira: Version B is the same time frame as version A, so of course during the tour.

Dr. Chan: So you remember her on her interview day?

Antigone: No.

Ira: As you can glean from this, I, in my first year of medical school, volunteered for a lot of the tours and . . .

Dr. Chan: You were very active.

Ira: Very active in the admissions and administration and whatnot. I was doing them like once a week. So I saw probably 100 different applicants in that first year, and then of course during second look day, the next 7,500 people that come to second look day and toured all of them through.

Dr. Chan: So you don't remember her from second look day either?

Ira: Or orientation.

Dr. Chan: So you don't even remember the mom?

Ira: I remember her mom.

Dr. Chan: You remember her mom more than herself?

Ira: I remember talking to her mom.

Dr. Chan: Oh, I love doing this.

Antigone: I was very good about staying in the periphery that day.

Dr. Chan: You were hiding behind your mom.

Ira: I do remember her mom and talking to her mom and answering about a trillion questions about medical school and wondering who she's attached to here.

Dr. Chan: This is a very non-traditional student in front of me.

Ira: What I like to tell myself and what I think really happened is after that first tour, Antigone was totally hooked and she was just thinking about me the entire time leading up. She just kept thinking about it and figuring out ways that she could make sure she ended up on my tour and not the other tours.

Dr. Chan: That's a good approach. Antigone is very crafty and intelligent like that.

Ira: She is. And then we finally got to, after her first week, I remember her sitting on like one of the couches outside of English Hub, and she was sitting there staring at the wall with this blank look on her face.

Dr. Chan: This is post-test.

Ira: Post-test.

Dr. Chan: And that's your first memory of Antigone?

Ira: That's my first memory of her, just like totally no color in her skin and just . . .

Antigone: Which is not far off from normal.

Ira: And I sat down next to her and I was just like, "Wow, it's going to be okay. I know that it's a . . . as we were always told, it's like taking a sip of water from a fire hose, that becomes real very, very quickly."

Dr. Chan: The tests are very hard and medical school is hard. It's so much information in a short amount of time. So you get together. What did it mean to be a couple in medical school? How did it help? How did it define your relationship?

Ira: It was interesting because Antigone's father is also one of our clinical instructors.

Dr. Chan: Oh, boy. We're going deep now.

Ira: So I spent the first six months to a year of our relationship . . .

Dr. Chan: Was he your clinical instructor?

Ira: Yes.

Dr. Chan: He was? I did not know that.

Ira: He wasn't my CMC instructor, but he taught classes in front of the whole class.

Dr. Chan: He would randomly grade you.

Ira: Yeah. He didn't know who I was. So I spent the first six months to a year without him actually knowing who I was but within the class. And then one day when Antigone was actually talking to him in the hallway, I turned and walked down the hallway and I saw them both and I tried to dodge behind one of the pillars and she grabbed me and pulled me out and was like, "By the way, this is my boyfriend, Ira."

Dr. Chan: So I guess you had not gone home and met the parents to this point?

Ira: No. I think one of the things that was really nice overall about being a couple in medical school actually was the fact that we were one year apart because we didn't have the same stress cycles. So when one person was really stressed, the other could be the supportive one, and when the other person was really stressed, we could flip flop it. So that really, I think, actually helped our relationship a lot.

Antigone: I never really planned on dating anyone in medical school, but it's always been really nice that I never had to explain anything to Ira, like we've had so many dates that have been pushed back by hours or have had to cancel and we've had parties or events that one of us have been unable to come to because of our time commitment to school. We've never had to explain that to each other and we've never had to worry about our partner being upset with us, and that's really nice to have somebody who gets what you are going through and is supportive of what you are doing.

Ira: And there are dates in the hospital cafeteria.

Dr. Chan: Dates in the hospital cafeteria.

Antigone: We've learned to be very flexible. We have had dates at Primary Children's before I started a night shift. We've met at Starbucks at the University of Utah. We've really just had to learn how to be adaptable sometimes. It's been great.

Dr. Chan: That's great. So you're different years. I know there was a decision made to have Ira step off and do something else. So walk us through that. Were you thinking that before you ever met Antigone, or did this kind of speed up that decision?

Ira: So I've told Antigone this a couple times, but I actually view that decision as probably the biggest moment in our relationship. That was because it was something I was not thinking about at all before. It was the beginning of my third year. The application for this program called the Medical Research Scholars Program at the National Institutes of Health was something I had just heard about, and the decision came in early September. It was, "Am I really going to derail the path that I'm taking right now to line up with somebody else?"

I think that's something that in every relationship you ask yourself at some point, and you know it's the right person when the answer to that is very clearly yes. While I view it as a really big decision, it was a very easy decision. Its was one of those that I was like, "Yeah, this is the right thing to do." So I actually applied to that and I applied to another one at Rockefeller University and another one at the University of Buffalo called the Sarnoff. So, through that, I ended up getting multiple options and chose to go to the NIH.

Dr. Chan: So we're talking leaving for medical school for a year to pursue research?

Ira: Yeah. It was really incredible. I think that as far as us as a couple, it was obviously a very challenging year to do a year of long distance, but we did have an end in sight and we knew that when we got back, it would be better because we would be lined up where we would be graduating together. We're both going to be able to participate in the match together.

Dr. Chan: So a bunch of questions are on my mind. Did you ever explore sticking around here and doing a year of research here? Was that even on the table?

Ira: That was absolutely . . . I hate to say it this way, but that was 100% the contingency plan. Some of these research fellowships are extremely competitive because they're fully funded. So I had actually already reached out to a previous mentor I had here who said that he would welcome me back in his lab if I needed the time.

Dr. Chan: Great. And then when you apply, do you apply to the program, or do you apply to a specific lab? Did you know what you would be doing before you went to these places?

Ira: It depends. Some of them you would reach out and contact a principal investigator at that institution, and then I'd have a Skype interview with that principal investigator. Then if they said that they would sponsor me, they would put in application with me for the scholarship or the fellowship. That's like how the Howard Hughes Medical Institute ones go. That's how the Rockefeller University ones went. For those, I literally completely like cold called the people.

Dr. Chan: "You have a cool website. It sounded really nice online."

Ira: Yep. Completely cold called them.

Dr. Chan: How does that work when you're in medical school? Does that work a little more successful as opposed to the pre-med life? When you say cold call, you mean cold email.

Ira: Yeah. I would say that it's a plus and minus. Ultimately, what you have to show, whether you're a pre-med or in med school is a genuine interest. I think nobody wants to work with somebody that's doing the work for ulterior motives. So, lucky for me, I'm really interested in research and I really enjoy it, so that's an easy thing for me. I get invested in projects and I really enjoy them. I think what they're really looking for is somebody that's actually going to contribute to their group in the same way that they're going to give you by teaching you and taking you under their wing. It worked completely fine, I guess. Everybody replied and everybody . . .

Dr. Chan: Everyone said, "You're hired. We want you."

Antigone: Yes.

Dr. Chan: What did you do for a year?

Ira: The NIH program is completely different. You apply to the program. I think actually this is the coolest thing.

Dr. Chan: They just assign you?

Ira: No. You get to choose. You spend the first two weeks there interviewing with one of the 2,000 investigators at the NIH choosing which lab.

Dr. Chan: Sounds like a buffet.

Ira: And you're funded, so you're very wanted not for your skills in research, but because you come with money.

Dr. Chan: Oh, so it's like the roles are flipped.

Ira: Yeah. So it's an incredible experience.

Dr. Chan: So people are just salivating to have you in the lab. They get your awesome personality, and you come with some money too.

Ira: Yes.

Dr. Chan: Okay. What was this program called again?

Antigone: MRSP.

Ira: MRSP, Medical Research Scholars Program.

Dr. Chan: Okay. Is it open only to medical students?

Ira: Medical, dental, and veterinary students. They want students that are coming between their third and fourth year. So they want students that have had the clinical experience so they can choose what research projects to do based on their clinical experience and what they've observed clinically. But I ended up doing a project in the pediatric oncology branch, working with an investigator on a clinical trial for a drug called vandetanib that's used for patients with a disease called multiple endocrine neoplasia 2.

Dr. Chan: I'm nodding my head like I understand what that means. So, obviously, pediatric cancer and I guess you're just looking at the efficacy of this drug, side effects, things like that.

Ira: Yeah. So we looked at . . . I got to learn how to do all these analysis techniques and look at landmark analysis and all these complicated stats. They taught me how to do it, which was really, really cool. I looked at the 10-year outcomes of this clinical trial. Then the other part that I absolutely loved was I got the chance to try my hand at some genome sequencing.

So I got to learn about how next generation sequencing works and really importantly with the National Institutes of Health, it's how it works and how it applies to the clinic. They have a protocol there where they're enrolling every child that comes through to get their whole genome sequenced. So to learn how that information interacts with patient care and actually helps guide patients, especially patients with cancer through their treatment options and going forward was one of the most amazing experiences of my life.

Dr. Chan: Sounds really cool. You're back there in D.C., great place to live. You're there for the entire year in between third and fourth year. That means, Antigone, you're on your third year. Walk us through that year. Did you just go ahead and buy like 20 plane flights? Did Ira end up coming more back to Salt Lake? Did you go more back to D.C.? How'd you guys work that?

Antigone: So I think we saw each other about once every three months when you average it out. When Ira first got the MRSP, we thought we were going to be able to see each other a lot more often than we ended up being able to do just because of my third year. In third year, you're definitely not in charge of your schedule. Ira also had work hour requirements he was supposed to do for the program. He left in August. The next time I saw him was in October when I flew out to go visit. Then he came home for Christmas.

Ira: Like a 30-hour . . .

Antigone: I went there for 30 hours, like I got there on Friday night and I left on Sunday morning, but otherwise, we weren't going to see each other until Christmas.

Dr. Chan: Did you throw in some D.C. sightseeing on top of it or no?

Ira: That was actually really funny. I made Antigone bike for about 30 miles when she got there, and we went and saw all the national monuments.

Dr. Chan: That's the way to do it is by bike. If you go by car, parking and traffic is really bad.

Ira: Then of course I was living 10 miles away from where the national monuments were. Rather than letting us take the subway down, we biked.

Dr. Chan: I've done that myself. It's gorgeous, people playing softball right there and ultimate Frisbee.

Ira: It was fantastic. We have a great picture on Instagram of Antigone face down on the couch after getting back from her 30-mile bike ride.

Dr. Chan: Did he surprise you with this, or did you know you were going to go on a 30-mile bike ride?

Antigone: You said I was crafty, but Ira is also very crafty. He asked me if I thought it would be fun to bike around the monuments, and I said, "Sure, that sounds great." He's like, "Okay, well, we'll bike there. It's just down the hill." But he didn't mention that it was 10 miles down the hill. So, no, I did not know what I was in for, but I've gotten used to that dating Ira Kraft. I now know to expect the unexpected.

Dr. Chan: Which could include a 30-mile bike ride.

Antigone: Yes, it could include anything.

Dr. Chan: All right, so let's step back a bit. So, before medical school, if I'd asked both of you what you wanted to go into, what would you have told me and then what did you end up choosing and why?

Antigone: I probably would have said I would be a pediatrician because I've always loved working with kids. But I was the medical student that loved everything in third year, and I would call Ira after every rotation except one and say, "I'm going to do this. I love this." It was hard for me to decide. Even when I committed to pediatrics, I still went back and forth between a couple of things. I could have easily seen myself going into OB or internal medicine.

Dr. Chan: So why pediatrics? What attracted you to that field?

Antigone: I think I just like who I am on pediatrics the most. I think there are parts of my personality that really fit with a lot of different specialties. I love working with my hands, which is why I loved OB. I loved working with child psych at uni because I used to work there.

Dr. Chan: I remember those days.

Antigone: Yes. I love those kids. I could still work in behavioral health going to pediatrics. But I just think the person that I am when I work with kids is the person that I want to be the most. For me, working with kids, I have to think about what I want to do not just now but in 30 years when I really, really don't want to get up in the morning or when I have other things going on in my life. For me, I will always, always get up out of bed, leave whatever I'm doing if a child needs help.

Dr. Chan: That's beautiful.

Antigone: Thank you. I was an English major.

Dr. Chan: Ira, before med school, what were you thinking of becoming?

Ira: I was thinking of becoming a doctor.

Dr. Chan: Okay. That's good. I'm glad you found the medical school.

Ira: To be completely honest, I don't think I knew what a doctor did until third year of medical school. That being said, I think one of the really cool things that happens at the beginning of your first year at University of Utah is there's lunch talks of every day of the first couple of weeks from different specialties. During those lunch talks, essentially the residency directors from the University of Utah come in and tell you about their specialty. One of the individuals who came in had me hooked right away, and that was Dr. Lam who gave a talk about a specialty that I didn't even know existed that was a combined internal medicine and pediatrics.

Dr. Chan: It's like the whole existence from birth until death.

Ira: Yeah. The whole thing. What I liked about it and what she sold me on is that you see both sides from a slightly different perspective. So you approach adult medicine, for example, when you're rounding and you say, "Maybe this situation might work better with family centered rounds," which is something that's very common in pediatrics. On the pediatrics side, another example would be you see a teenager that has high blood pressure and you say maybe the adult treatment regimen might actually fit this patient better than the pediatric workup.

So being able to learn that flexibility was what really got me. Of course, I stayed open to everything, similar to Antigone, a little bit less so in the fact that I don't think I loved everything to the same extent that she did, but I kept coming back to med peds, and that was always the thing that I'd find and be like, "Well, med peds is a little bit better for me than that."

Dr. Chan: So, when you did your rotations in internal medicine and pediatrics, did you like them both equally?

Ira: I would say no. First of all, the pediatrics rotation at University of Utah is absolutely outstanding and is done in a way where -- I'm sure you've heard about this on other podcasts --there's a team called the Glasgow Team that's med student run and you feel like you are the primary provider of a patient as early as the beginning of your third year of medical school because you are dictating the treatment for those patients.

Dr. Chan: With supervision.

Antigone: Yes.

Ira: With supervision. Absolutely.

Dr. Chan: The med students are not doing everything on their own.

Ira: No. It's such a time for growth . . .

Dr. Chan: Ownership.

Ira: Ownership. And at least for me, it really embodies the reason why I went to medical school. It's an incredible experience. That plus of course I had some experience in a research lab in internal medicine, so I knew that I liked the medicine and I knew that I liked the research. Actually, again, going back to that NIH program, that was another thing that completely drove home med peds for me. That was the idea of being able to write clinical trials for both adults and kids.

When I was at the NIH, there was one investigator in the pediatric oncology branch who was med peds trained. So she had to be an investigator on every trial that included patients that were both adults and kids so that they could get IRB approved to run that trial so they could have an internal medicine doctor, essentially, on the trial or they would collaborate across. So the idea to be able to do that without limitations and knowing that I want a career in research was like completely ended it for me and I knew that med peds was it.

Dr. Chan: Awesome. Combine medicine and pediatrics, four years?

Ira: Four years.

Dr. Chan: And then pediatrics three years. You guys had made up your mind. Walk me through fourth year. What was your strategy? What did you start doing? How did that work? Did someone in the relationship have the Excel spreadsheet? Was someone master of the money? How did that work?

Antigone: Well . . .

Ira: It didn't.

Dr. Chan: Is it just organized chaos?

Antigone: Yes. I wish we could tell you that we had this amazingly streamlined system and walked through all of this application process smoothly, but we did not. We applied to every med peds program.

Dr. Chan: How many are there?

Ira: Seventy-seven.

Antigone: So, with the geographical pediatrics matches, I applied to 94.

Dr. Chan: Those strike me as very, very high numbers. I'm going to go out on a limb here. I bet you got way too many interview offers.

Antigone: We did. We also went to way too many interviews and now we are broke.

Dr. Chan: Okay. Let's talk through this. This is for the benefit of the rising generations.

Antigone: Okay.

Dr. Chan: What would you have done different, or would you have done anything different?

Antigone: I think we sort of . . . I don't know if panicked is the right word, but we're sort of wired at the beginning, and every offer that came in we took and we planned to go to and a lot of the schools that we really wanted to go to, we didn't end up getting interview offers until a little bit later in the season. So I think just being a little bit more patient would have worked.

Ira: I also think that we scheduled interviews very poorly. Our thought process was that we would schedule our -- I'm doing air quotes here -- our backup programs we scheduled at the beginning of interview season thinking that that would give us some practice and then the programs that we were really excited about and really wanted to go to we scheduled in January.

Dr. Chan: You'd be smooth and suave.

Ira: So we'd be ready to go. What really what happened is we were just exhausted because we'd already gone on 20 interviews. I think that if we could do it again, I know what I would do is almost flip that, put those programs at the end so you can actually cancel them afterwards or once other ones come in of places that you want to go to.

Antigone: We also had a hard time saying no, like cancelling interviews was really hard for us. I also think what I would tell the incoming generations of medical students is not to put yourselves in a box of places you want to go because we worked ourselves up to have one dream school or school that we really thought we were going to end up going to and I went and did an away rotation there and we invested a lot of time and energy into that school and we didn't like it. The school that we are going to was not even on our radar at the beginning of all this.

Dr. Chan: Why didn't you like that unnamed location?

Antigone: The people.

Ira: I think everybody tells you that residency is about fit and finding a program. It truly is a match and it's about fit. I don't think any medical student truly believes that until after they go through the process and then every medical student believes that.

Dr. Chan: You've seen one residency program, you've seen one residency program. Right?

Ira: Yeah, exactly. It was really hard. I would still personally go on as many interviews as we did and be as broke as we are right now, Antigone maybe not quite so many. I got the feeling that I didn't know what a place was like from their website and from researching everything I could online and I still didn't know what a place was like. For me, it was equally as helpful to show up at an interview dinner and within 15 minutes say, "I don't really want to go here," than it was to be like, "Wow, this place would be interesting."

Dr. Chan: So it's about culture and teamwork and the educational environment.

Ira: Yeah. There were those places that 15 minutes in I was like, "This place doesn't fit me."

Dr. Chan: "I would like to order another steak."

Antigone: Less than 15 minutes sometimes.

Dr. Chan: I'm just curious of the numbers. How many interviews did you each end up going on?

Antigone: I went on 24.

Ira: I went on 26.

Dr. Chan: Okay. That's a lot.

Antigone: It was a lot.

Dr. Chan: This is spaced out over . . .

Antigone: Three months.

Dr. Chan: Was there any coordination between the two programs? Were you ever interviewing the same time in the same city, or were you guys crisscrossing the nation like two planes in the night.

Antigone: I think three times we interviewed together.

Dr. Chan: Was that better or more stressful?

Antigone: It was nice.

Ira: It was really nice because we hadn't seen each other for a month and we'd meet in some city we'd never been at before and spend three days there and explore the city a little bit.

Dr. Chan: Did you ever decide to play mind games with people in the interview, like pretend to not know each other?

Antigone: We talked about that.

Dr. Chan: Just start to hit it off and then you're holding hands midway through the day.

Antigone: We talked about doing that. Whenever we would plan to do that, we thought we would be together on the interview a lot of the day because med peds and peds overlap, but we were never together enough to be able to work that out, but we wanted to. It was really nice. It was nice to go to dinners together because we could get two different perspectives on what was going on.

Ira: That's that same thought. Even interviewing at separate times was really nice because we got to see each program twice.

Dr. Chan: Go home and compare notes, impressions.

Ira: We both had different things that we were looking for and looking at specifically. We'd come back from one program and I'd be super excited because I'd be like, "There's like free food at everything and it's outstanding." And then Antigone would come back and be like, "Academically it doesn't really fit our goals and whatnot." It was great because we both saw it through a different lens, and then when we brought it together, we could actually come up with something that really did fit us very well.

Dr. Chan: In every relationship, there's always negotiation, there's always compromise. It's just how it's set up. I'm curious to hear as you start preparing your rank lists, what were the give and takes? What were the things that were absolutely essential, and what were the things you could say, "That's not as important to me," as you've talked and compromised with each other?

Ira: I think that, first of all, we had, by vast majority, we essentially did like a tier system. So we had like places we loved after the interview, places we thought were really good after the interview, and places we thought that were good after the interview. Our tiers lined up almost perfectly. So we didn't really have that many challenging moments where we were like . . .

Dr. Chan: Where someone clearly had a program higher than the other person.

Ira: And then we did have a lot of choosing between one and two or two and three or three and four. But there was, I think that for me, a lot of it was the feel. Like I had, of course, an idea. I wanted free food. I wanted to be able to bike into the program. I wanted a window in the resident room. They all went out the window real quick.

Antigone: There were no windows.

Ira: There are no windows in resident rooms in any hospital all over the country.

Dr. Chan: I had no idea that was so important to you. Now that I think about it, I don't think I've ever sat in a resident room with windows.

Antigone: No, neither have we.

Ira: They're all built the same.

Dr. Chan: I've been in where there's multiple computers and actually some bunk beds and some closets you hope are cleaned out every once in a while.

Antigone: I think we both when we were submitting, getting ready to submit our rank lists, we both independently of each other felt that our number one program should be our number one program. It was a perfect fit for both of us and us together. I think when it came to making our rank list, how we felt we would do it in the beginning didn't really end up being as big of a role, like we applied to a ton of places for geographical match options and then we didn't end up liking a lot of places in the same area.

But also, there were places that Ira loved that I didn't love as much or I thought the peds program was a little bit weaker than other places, and there were places that I loved that Ira really didn't want to live. When we sat down and looked at the paper and actually looked at the possibility of matching somewhere separately, we just decided that matching together was better than that and that we could figure out anything and that four years of our life wasn't a life sentence and that it was the most important that we match together.

Ira: It's of course different for every couple, but it was a balance for us. I think that on our rank list at our 15th-ish mark, we did have us matching at separate programs because they were outstanding, big name programs. I think in the end, that had caused a bit of anxiety because again . . .

Dr. Chan: You guys are not going to drop down to your 15th.

Antigone: You never know.

Ira: When you really think about it, we wanted to match together and we applied to all these geographical options and then we made a rank list that was 512 programs long.

Dr. Chan: Wow.

Antigone: That's a plug for how scary Dr. Stephenson makes this process.

Dr. Chan: Oh my goodness.

Ira: In the end, we just realized we wanted to do it together and, again, it goes back to the decision to take the year off. I think that part of it has also made me become a very large [inaudible 00:36:07] and I've talked to a couple of other couples that are in staggered years about the importance of matching together as opposed to one person following the other person. I think that we really did find a place that was perfect for both of us.

Dr. Chan: All right. So you submit your rank list. Then obviously, it takes a month to run the computer algorithm, obviously, because that's how it works nowadays.

Antigone: I was a wreck.

Dr. Chan: So any second thoughts, any like, "Oh my gosh, we didn't certify the list"?

Antigone: Oh yeah. I was freaked out that we didn't click a button right. I stalked Dr. Stephenson. I sent him screenshots. Ira would have to like hide my computer from me because I was obsessively checking. Did we regret what we put? I don't know if it was so much that we regretted. I don't think we regretted our list. I think we had second thoughts about like Ira said, the program, the match that that had us at separate places.

Dr. Chan: Okay.

Antigone: I think we more so did not expect to match at our number one, so we were sort of planning to not.

Dr. Chan: Well, walk me through the week. Were your more anxious the Monday when you got the email saying you did match, or you weren't worried about that? I know a lot of people say they're so happy to get that email.

Ira: We were very worried. We were worried about it, but I don't think I was as worried.

Dr. Chan: Okay. So you get the email on Monday saying you did match but not where.

Ira: We had 512 options.

Dr. Chan: All right. So, unless there was a computer meltdown . . .

Ira: We thought we had to have done something very wrong if we went 512 options down our list.

Antigone: I think matching on Monday was a little bit of a relief, but in my illogical brain, there were still more options on our rank list that had us separate than had us together and not knowing where we were on that list, I didn't sleep that entire week.

Dr. Chan: My next question, the Friday, the Thursday night before, sleep like babies? Were you freaking out?

Antigone: I don't think I slept.

Ira: It's a rough week. Match week is a rough week.

Dr. Chan: A lot of emotions.

Ira: Our match day celebration was at Rice-Eccles Stadium, and it like hit me in the elevator as we were going up. So Antigone is also very involved in . . .

Dr. Chan: Student government.

Ira: Student government and whatnot. She was getting there early, and I got there early with her to help set up. We're walking in, and we couldn't even like look at each other.

Dr. Chan: It's too stressful.

Ira: Very stressed. It really hit me in the elevator, and I like disappeared for an hour and just stood staring out the window blankly at the football field and was just like, "Okay."

Dr. Chan: Were you worried that he was going to disappear?

Antigone: No, but then he did. He had been . . . I am definitely the worrier, over-reactor stress ball of the relationship, and Ira is always like, "It's fine. I'm going to go skiing." So the whole match week, he had been great, and I would cry and I would walk around my kitchen island in circles. He was fine. Then we went to match day and I was nauseous, but I was trying to focus on like putting up the balloons and doing all that. Ira is just gone. He's not answering his phone. I was just like, "Did he run away? What is happening?"

Ira: I save all the stress for one hour and then just get it all out.

Dr. Chan: So was your mind going there, dark thoughts, calamity?

Ira: Yeah, spend it all in that one hour, because I was totally fine all the way before that, but then that one hour was awful.

Dr. Chan: I'm glad you got it out of your system. All you need to do is stare at a football field. Apparently that's your Walden Pond.

Ira: Stare at a football field, stare at the other side, look at the windows or the mountains on the other side of the valley, gorgeous.

Dr. Chan: So they have the little talks. They cut the ribbon. What did you guys do? Did you get your envelopes simultaneously and go back to your families? How did that unfold?

Antigone: We went and got our bags and went back to our tables with our family. Both our families were there. I, of course, like ripped mine open and I'm ready and Ira takes 45 minutes, it felt like, to get his envelope opened and he can't get the thing out and I'm standing there holding mine waiting and he can't get it out. Then we opened them together. There's a video and we both read ours, and then we both look at each other's to make sure they say the same thing.

Dr. Chan: Where are you headed?

Antigone: We're going to the University of Chicago.

Dr. Chan: Awesome. Congratulations. How'd it feel?

Antigone: I was shocked.

Ira: Total disbelief.

Dr. Chan: Why were you in disbelief?

Antigone: We really didn't think we would go there. I didn't hear from them at all when we applied first and Ira got an interview and we called and emailed and then I got put on the waitlist.

Dr. Chan: For an interview.

Antigone: And then I got an interview at the last minute. We didn't think we were high on their list. But it was absolutely where we wanted to go, like more than any other place. Ira really didn't want to live in a big city, and we're going to a big city. So we were shocked that we got in.

Dr. Chan: So I get the sense it was pretty near the top of your list.

Ira: It was our first choice. I think the other part about it was it was our first choice, like it was something that fit both of us very, very well. As medical students, we're really good at catastrophizing. So we think about all the things that could happen, all the contingency plans, all the . . . like for med peds at University of Chicago, there's four spots total. They interview about 70 people or so for those four spots. I think on my interview day, of course I'm sitting next to someone from Yale and someone from Harvard and all these big name schools.

Dr. Chan: High mucky-mucks.

Ira: Yeah.

Dr. Chan: As my parents would say.

Antigone: These two kids from Utah.

Ira: I'm like wow, this is really . . . how could I be considered when I'm going up against somebody from . . .

Dr. Chan: A big name school.

Ira: These big name schools. I did end up taking sort of a comedic approach to it when I was on the interview trail and every time I'd meet somebody from Yale, I'd come up and say, "Where are you from?" They'd be like, "Yale." And I'd be like, "Oh, Yale, I've heard of that school."

Dr. Chan: I'm sure they loved that.

Antigone: I'm sure.

Dr. Chan: Okay. You're going to Chicago together.

Ira: Together. Same school.

Dr. Chan: Somewhat same programs, some overlap.

Ira: Yeah.

Dr. Chan: Have you already gotten your schedules?

Antigone: No.

Ira: We know parts of it. We actually just came back. We flew out there for three days.

Dr. Chan: Found a place to live.

Ira: Found a place to live.

Dr. Chan: Biking distance?

Ira: Yeah. It's 7 miles straight down the lake front path there.

Dr. Chan: Wow.

Ira: But it's flat there. I used to bike in to school here, and it was like an 800-foot climb elevation gain just to get into school. So I was only 2 miles away, but 800 feet up for those two miles, whereas there, it's 7 miles away, but it's dead flat.

Dr. Chan: And wedding coming up next few weeks?

Antigone: Yeah, May 12th.

Dr. Chan: So 2018 is turning out to be a banner year for you guys.

Antigone: It's been a crazy year.

Ira: It's absurd. What are we doing in like a one-week span?

Antigone: So we get married on the 12th. We're both presenting at pediatric grand rounds on the 17th, and we graduate on the 18th in the morning, and on the 18th in the evening, we leave for Cuba for two weeks. We get back from Cuba and four days later move to Chicago.

Dr. Chan: And Cuba is the honeymoon, or you're going to do research there?

Antigone: It's our honeymoon.

Dr. Chan: Wow. That's cool.

Antigone: We will be researching Cuban food.

Dr. Chan: I hear it's quite yummy and tasty.

Ira: And rum.

Antigone: And rum, yes.

Dr. Chan: All right. You guys have been great. Last question for both of you. Let's bring it back to admissions. So, looking back, I know a lot of applicants do a lot of different activities. They're checking the box, or they're going through the motions. What we always advocate is those experiences really help you in medical school and help you prepare for this journey. So, looking back, can you think of an activity you did before you applied to med school that really made it worth it, that really helped you as you've gone through these four or five years?

Antigone: You want to go? I have to think.

Ira: I think the big thing is, first of all, both Antigone and I did not get into medical school our first time around. While that is so devastating when it initially happens, I think for me, that was one of the best things that could have happened to me.

Antigone: I agree.

Ira: Because of that, I took four years after my initial application to reapply. It really was a soul-searching experience where I traveled and I got a real job. But it was one of those times where I learned that life isn't an arrow. It's a windy path. It really truly is about the journey, not the destination. So if you can find a way to enjoy every step of that journey and take something out of it, that's the beauty.

That's really what helped me in medical school was when I'd walk in to see a patient and be like, "Oh yeah, this is very similar to a patient that I saw when I was a volunteering in a clinic in Tanzania," not because I went to Tanzania to check the box, but because I actually went on this soul searching journey to do that.

Dr. Chan: That's beautiful, Ira.

Antigone: I truly believe that I wasn't meant to get in my first try. I don't think that I would have enjoyed medical school as much. I don't even know if we would be together if it had worked out how it was "supposed" to work out.

Dr. Chan: Yeah, because Ira would not have been on those tours or the second look day.

Antigone: You wouldn't have seen me staring at the wall.

Ira: You wouldn't have had the chance to stalk me for six months.

Antigone: Sure. I think I needed that year to figure out who I was and to stop trying to check boxes. I think the things that stand out and the things that have helped me in medical school are, like Ira said, things that I didn't do just to check boxes. For me, the most worthwhile thing was working at uni. I think when we think about applying to medical school, we see this vision of a doctor in a really clean white coat and a stethoscope and everything is sort of like perfect.

But working with patients and seeing the team effort that goes into helping a patient and working with nurses and seeing what happens when patients don't want to take their medications and seeing what happens to families who have patients in the hospital and all of the complications that go with that. For me, working with little kids, I will never forget that, and I will never forget why I'm doing what I'm doing. I think that's really important to remember when you're studying a million hours a week and when you're taking these board exams that take up all of your life and you're not hanging out with your friends and you feel defeated, you have to remember why you're here, and checking boxes is not why you're here or at least I would hope not why you're here.

So, for me, it's those times at uni or at the AIDS Foundation, taking someone's blood who is really nervous about a test result or telling people about insurance at Planned Parenthood, that's part of being a doctor and that's why we're here, and I wouldn't take any of that back to get in a year earlier.

Ira: And I wanted to add one more thing is that I think that also applies to undergrad classes. I think it's really easy to say, "I'm studying organic chemistry to get an A in organic chemistry," but it's relevant. It's very relevant. If you understand organic chemistry, you're going to understand the pharmacology of the drugs that you learn in medical school. If you understand . . . one of the best classes that I took in undergrad was a technical writing class. It helped me learn how to not only write things like a CV and an instruction manual, but it also taught me how to read things in that manner and how to critique things.

So I think that a lot of the pre-med requirements, they're there for a reason. In the same light of enjoying the journey and taking something from those, they will apply to your future career in medicine and they are there for a reason.

Dr. Chan: That's very beautiful. That's very eloquent from both of you. I look forward to one of you replacing one day because I think you guys are ready. Well, Antigone, Ira, thank you so much.

Antigone: Thanks for having us.

Ira: Thank you.

Dr. Chan: I'm very happy. I'm happy you're going to spend your lives together, you're going to be helping kids and sometimes adults. Chicago is very fortunate to have you. I hope you move back one day.

Ira: Thank you very much.

Antigone: Thank you.

Ira: We're feeling very fortunate that you don't live in the South Side of Chicago maybe during this July when all the interns start. I think that we're ready.

Antigone: And we have loved our time here at Utah and appreciate all that everyone has done for us.

Dr. Chan: You guys are great. We'll have to have you come back one day.

Antigone: You're great.

Announcer: Thanks for listening to Talking Admissions and Med Student Life with Dr. Benjamin Chan, the ultimate resource to help you on your journey to and through medical school, a production of The Scope Health Sciences Radio online at