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Episode 124 – Chelsey and Marcus, fourth year medical students at University of Utah School of Medicine

May 15, 2019

"We always re-emphasized again and again, our number one priority was each other and we couldn't let the match come between that." Chelsey was a T.A. in Marcus's undergraduate anatomy class. Needless to say, it was love at first G.I. lesson. After going through pre-med and medical school together, Chelsey and Marcus have finally matched and are ready for the next adventure. We discuss Chelsey's Hesitation to go to medical school after getting married, Marcus's difficulty choosing a specialty, navigating the couples match program, rating programs together, and finally what it's like to cross your fingers at the end.

Episode Transcript

Dr. Chan: What's like to meet your spouse in anatomy lab? How do you navigate the tricky complexity of couples matching? How do you finance your interviews? And how do you tell your spouse that you really don't like their top choice? Today on "Talking Admissions and Med Student Life," I interview Chelse and Marcus, fourth-year medical students 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: Well, welcome to another edition of "Talking Admissions and Med Student Life." I've got two guests today, Marcus and Chelse. How are you doing?

Chelse: We're good.

Marcus: We're great. Thanks for having us.

Dr. Chan: Recently matched fourth years, don't say where you matched because we'll get into that.

Chelse: Suspense.

Dr. Chan: It's suspense. All right, so let's start at the beginning. How did you two meet?

Chelse: Okay. We'll go way back.

Marcus: This is way back, yeah.

Chelse: Yeah. So we've been married now almost six years. We met at BYU. We were both pre-med undergraduates, and I was his anatomy TA.

Dr. Chan: I did not know that.

Chelse: Yeah. I can really tail it back to the moment we met. He came in to an early lab session, and I taught him the GI tract on a cadaver. Yep.

Marcus: Yeah.

Dr. Chan: And Marcus, did you go in early because you knew Chelse was going to be your TA that day, or did you really just need to learn about the GI tract and it didn't matter if . . .

Marcus: So, actually, yes, I did go in early because I knew it was her. I had seen her before that. I was taking the class with my sister, and when I saw Chelse, I think my jaw was like on the floor because she was, my sister is like, "I think you love her, don't you?" That's it.

Dr. Chan: So it's love at first sight.

Chelse: Yeah.

Marcus: I think so.

Dr. Chan: And it wasn't love at the GI tract.

Marcus: No, not necessarily.

Dr. Chan: Okay.

Chelse: No.

Marcus: I had a good friend that was in her TA section, and I was like I'm going to . . . And it was like Tuesday mornings at 7:00 a.m. I could had gone at any point in the day. So yeah, I definitely went to see Chelse, but I could get up the gumption at that point to actually talk to her.

Dr. Chan: So is this is the . . . when was this? What year is this?

Marcus: This was the . . .

Chelse: Oh, man. Of our sophomore year.

Marcus: . . . winter of 2011. It's like January 2011.

Dr. Chan: And does BYU have rules with TAs dating students, or is it kind of a free for all or have about?

Chelse: They sure do. They have rules, but we didn't.

Marcus: We weren't dating.

Chelse: No.

Marcus: I was just admiring at that point. I was just a creepy stalker.

Chelse: I really liked him and thought he was so cute, but he like never looked up at me while I was teaching, so I thought this isn't going to happen because he's more interested in the cadaver than me.

Marcus: I was nervous.

Chelse: Yeah, apparently. He like wouldn't even look at me, so that was winter semester. Nothing happened. He just kept showing up. I kept trying to get his attention. It never worked.

Marcus: That's such a lie though.

Chelse: Whatever, whatever.

Marcus: She did not try to get my attention. She already had it.

Chelse: Yeah. And then we had organic chemistry together in the fall, so that whole next year or junior year, and I was dating someone at that point. He was dating someone at that point so . . .

Marcus: No, I wasn't.

Chelse: Well, whatever.

Marcus: I was single, ready to mingle.

Chelse: Yeah. You were single at the . . .

Marcus: With you.

Chelse: Okay. And . . .

Dr. Chan: I think history is being rewritten as we're talking about it. Okay.

Chelse: But we just became really good friends, because I was in a relationship at that point. So we started becoming study buddies and became really good friends. My mom is a professor at BYU campus, so I introduced him to her. They became best friends. Now, I know they had like secret meetings behind my back.

Dr. Chan: Oh, some plotting, some engineering going on, buddy.

Chelse: He would say that he wanted to date me and that he thought he was falling in love with me. And my mom would say, "It's okay. You're going to be in her family eventually, just hang on." So, yeah.

Dr. Chan: Wow, okay. All right. So, from the time you met, when did you start dating?

Marcus: A year later. Well, actually it was . . .

Chelse: Well, a year and a half.

Marcus: No, it was longer.

Chelse: It was a year and a half.

Marcus: Because we met in the winter and then we didn't start dating until, yeah, a whole year and a half, in like October of 2012.

Chelse: Yeah.

Dr. Chan: And how long did you date for before getting married?

Chelse: So this sounds typical BYU unfortunately, but we knew each other, but we only dated for, well, it was almost a year.

Marcus: We got engaged in February.

Chelse: We got engaged, and we started in November, got engaged in February, and then got married in August.

Dr. Chan: Okay. All right.

Chelse: Yeah.

Marcus: But at that point, when we started dating, we had already talked about like everything. We already knew everything about each other.

Chelse: It was more like, "Can I kiss you and have it not be weird?"

Dr. Chan: Most couples struggle with that.

Chelse: Yes, couples struggle.

Dr. Chan: All right. So one of the things that you talked about is applying to med school. Like when did that, you know, because you said you're both pre-med and we can do a whole separate podcast about like, you know, pre-med culture and how people navigated that. So how did that work at BYU? How did you guys navigate that?

Marcus: So I kind of decided at that point, once we were dating, med school. I was debating between dental and med school for a little bit, but decided on med school. And then Chelse had kind of had this experience where she felt like, I guess you could tell it.

Chelse: Yeah. I was worried about like the double doctor lifestyle, like we both want a family and I think, for better or worse, lots of LDS women maybe don't pursue medical school for a variety of different reasons. And so I kind of fell into that for a moment, trying to think like, "Well, maybe I could do a PhD route, maybe I could do PA school," because I love teaching and then trying to navigate how we would even approach a double doctor life. So I ended up kind of walking away. I didn't end up taking the MCAT, and I finished the semester. I graduated BYU a semester before he did, so I just started working in health care. And then he ended up . . .

Marcus: With like the PA goal, I mean like patient experience.

Chelse: With a PA or PhD goal. Yeah, exactly. And he ended up getting accepted to a school in Washington first.

Marcus: Oregon.

Chelse: In Oregon. Okay. Well, we didn't go, so it's fine. And it was, we thought when he applied, that we apply to places that had corresponding PhD or PA programs only and that school only had an MD program.

Marcus: DO.

Chelse: Yeah, and it was DO. And so, at that point, I thought, "Well, that's all there is, so I'm just going to go for it." So I started prepping. I took the MCAT, and then he got accepted to the U, which is what we always wanted all along, but I was already on the track. So I had made up my mind.

Marcus: But at that point you were committed to it too.

Chelse: I was committed.

Marcus: It was like ever since she was a little girl, like way more than me, she's wanted to be a physician since, you know, she was little. And so it just felt wrong to not have her kind of go after . . .

Dr. Chan: Yeah. So, Chelse, what helped you get back on the medicine trail? I mean was there an event or series of events? Because what you express is not unknown. I mean, like a lot of people feel dissuaded for a variety of reasons.

Chelse: For a variety of things, yeah. But I mean it's what I've always wanted since I was little. And because he got in where there was only like a med school option, I felt like that was the trigger.

Marcus: It's kind of like the motivating factor.

Chelse: It was the motivating.

Marcus: Okay. I guess we're going to both do this, all of it.

Chelse: Because that was the only option for me and I felt like I can't not do it.

Dr. Chan: So once you started going, like so when there was only Oregon. it sounded like you felt like, "Okay. I can only apply to this medical school."

Chelse: Exactly.

Dr. Chan: But then when you got in Utah, it sounds like you'd already put in a lot of blood, sweat, and tears.

Chelse: I was already going. Yeah. And I had, like I had made up my mind now that I had . . .

Marcus: The fire was rekindled.

Chelse: It was back, yeah. Now that I had re-decided I was going to med school like it was done. I realized like I never would, it's just I would have had regrets forever if I hadn't done it, and it's who I am and who I always wanted to be. And so I went for it. The tricky thing then at that point was he was a year ahead of me, and so I applied and I was working here during his first year in med school, just doing research and I just remember running into you all the time.

Dr. Chan: Yeah, yeah. You're up on the second floor.

Chelse: I was up on the second floor.

Dr. Chan: You're in the OB-GYN department.

Chelse: Yes. And so you would keep walking by me, and every time I'd get so nervous because it's like, "Oh, my gosh, I saw Dr. Chan today. He's the master of my fate."

Dr. Chan: It's the committee, it's not me. It's the committee.

Chelse: I know. I know, but I didn't know that at the time and so . . .

Marcus: It definitely seems like.

Chelse: You just felt like this, yeah, like this goal, this unreachable goal.

Dr. Chan: Okay, so let's break this down. So Marcus gets into the U. I remember talking to you, Marcus, on the phone and I would say you're in the top 10 kind of dazed and confused, because I remember I kept on saying welcome and you're just like, "What?" Like, you know, I just remember it.

Marcus: You're joking with me.

Dr. Chan: Yeah.

Marcus: It was early.

Dr. Chan: Yeah. You seemed incredulous. You just seemed like, "This can't be happening. Is this some practical joke? Did Chelse put you up to this?" Because I remember you were very much dumbfounded on some deep level.

Marcus: Yeah. I was driving to work. It was early and unknown number, and I was just like, yeah, I thought it was some kind of joke. People around me probably knew how much I wanted to get into the U.

Chelse: It's just been sort of like humility that he has, he just like couldn't believe it. Yeah.

Marcus: One of the best moments.

Chelse: Oh, my gosh, yeah, it was awesome.

Dr. Chan: So you start school here, but Chelse is a year behind you. How was that for the first year, you know, as far as like amount of work and, you know, studying and, you know, Chelse is getting her application in order?

Marcus: Yeah. It was a little overwhelming for me. I mean, probably not uncommonly. I was a Spanish major, so I didn't have the science background, and I think, for me, I definitely experienced that learning curve of trying to get used to the language of science during that first semester. And so, yeah, it was hard, but we got through it. And Chelse was working hard during that time doing research here at the U and developing good ties there at the OB programs.

Dr. Chan: Yeah.

Chelse: Fortuitous.

Dr. Chan: And then did you only apply to the U, or what was your strategy the next year?

Chelse: Yep, I only applied here, which is why you were so scary every time I saw you. It just felt like all my eggs in one basket, and some of his classmates would be like, "What would happen if you don't get in?" And I would just say, "Good question, but I'm not thinking about it." Because that would have created a two-year gap, which seems it would have been harder. So we were just kind of going forward, hoping it would all work out. Yep.

Dr. Chan: So I remember calling you, and you were very excited.

Chelse: I was so excited.

Dr. Chan: You were even like one floor above us at that point.

Chelse: I was one floor above you literally, and I was so excited. I texted Marcus immediately, and I was like, "You need to leave class. There's an emergency." Because I like . . .

Marcus: I was just like in class aloof, like I didn't . . .

Dr. Chan: Did you walk out or you're just like, "Yeah."

Marcus: I did kind of, yeah. I thought maybe it was like a legit emergency, and then she kind of screamed, "I got in," and then it was pretty close to our class break, so then, at that point, my whole class kind of knew Chelse was applying and so we kind of had a little celebration.

Chelse: We had a little celebration.

Marcus: In the hall, in front of everybody.

Dr. Chan: And when did you start, so like then you knew, like you're a year behind Marcus. When did the discussion pivot to like how do we sync up? How do we . . .?

Chelse: Right then or even before we kind of started planning.

Marcus: Once I got in, we had kind of started planning a little bit. We're kind of planners, especially Chelse.

Chelse: Especially me.

Dr. Chan: So there's many options for someone to take "a year off," pursue a master's degree, do research. How did you end up choosing what you chose?

Marcus: Yeah. I've taken some business courses in undergrad, like statistics, accounting. And I really did enjoy it, so I kind of had a lingering desire to pursue business. At the time, Vivian Lee was pretty motivating as well, as far as kind of pushing physician leadership in health care kind of with an emphasis on business, I felt like. And I'm also not necessarily a business-minded person. It doesn't come naturally to me. So it was appealing to kind of let's strengthen a weakness I guess. So, for those reasons, I decided pretty early on.

Chelse: Yeah. It was an easy decision on the MBA. And so, in between first and second year, when you have that break, he prepped and took the . . .

Marcus: The GMAT.

Chelse: The GMAT.

Dr. Chan: So they still require the GMAT. I know that's been an ongoing discussion.

Chelse: Yeah. At that point he needed it. So since that was kind of his one break in med school without boards, we planned so he could take that and have it ready by the time he needed to apply. Yeah.

Marcus: So what's one more standardized test?

Chelse: Why not?

Dr. Chan: More tests.

Chelse: Yeah.

Dr. Chan: How was it to be . . . So you did your first two years, and then is the MBA after third year or could you go after second year?

Marcus: It's only after third year.

Dr. Chan: So you went ahead. So, Chelse, you were a year behind for three years.

Chelse: Yep, exactly.

Dr. Chan: Okay. How was that?

Marcus: It was kind of unfortunate, honestly, looking back, just because we were study buddies for so long, like we learn really similarly and work really well together, so I would have liked that. It would have been nice to have the experience. I don't know. Maybe a step prep would have torn our marriage apart. I don't know.

Dr. Chan: Or made it stronger.

Marcus: Or made it stronger. But I think, I kind of have like the regret factor as far as that goes. Like I wish I could have experienced that with her, but it ultimately ended up fine. I could kind of put out some fires along her journey where she had . . .

Chelse: Yes, super helpful for me.

Marcus: . . . worries come up but . . .

Chelse: Yeah.

Dr. Chan: What were some fires?

Marcus: Just kind of specific worries pertaining to like course details or assignments or . . .

Chelse: Yeah. I think it was nice, just because he knew the resources. Like I feel when you get into med school, you have this massive learning curve and then all these new resources, and you're just trying to learn like which ones are worth your time. So he had tried the resources and kind of told me, since we learn so similar, what worked best for him. So he kind of shortened my learning curve a little bit just by helping me tailor the resources or how to best study, just . . .

Marcus: She could commit a little earlier.

Chelse: Yeah, like simple things like that. And I also think it helped watching him go through it, because then I feel like I had very realistic expectations of what all it was going to be like going in.

Dr. Chan: With the schedules kind of flipped, so first year is usually the morning is off and have class in the afternoon. And then second year, there's class in the morning and usually the afternoon is off. Like would you study together at nights, or were you kind of library buddies, or how did that work? Or did you go whole periods of time without seeing each other? I mean, what did that look like the first few years?

Marcus: It really wasn't as bad as it sounded. I felt like we still saw each other a lot, and we did, we would kind of review stuff together. And we both had our study groups, so we kind of go and see and hang out for a little while. I think both of us being in it just did set really realistic expectations and we just knew we were studying. We'd meet up and go to the gym or go get some food.

Chelse: We'd just sit by each other. We'd be studying different things, but we'd always just be by each other and it was fun. Yeah.

Dr. Chan: Good.

Chelse: We survived.

Dr. Chan: All right. So I'm going to start with Chelse first, then to you, Marcus. All right. So, Chelse, if you had asked me before you got here and then all throughout the first years in med school, I would have said OB-GYN.

Chelse: Really?

Dr. Chan: All the way.

Marcus: That's what I was thinking too.

Dr. Chan: So how did you arrive at your career choice, your decision, and like how much did third year kind of play into that? So what was your journey towards that?

Chelse: Yeah. So, because I had worked in OB-GYN research before med school, I knew I loved it, but I also didn't want to pigeon hole myself because of that. So I got in, and then I got exposed to the world of dermatology because my mom has had lots of skin cancer and one of my best friends was pursuing it. So then I got sucked into derm. So, for the first two years of med school, I was dermatology all the way. I did tons of research in leadership and kind of departed from OB. And then in third year, that's when . . .

Marcus: And part of that is because it was kind of like almost typical for you, right, or people would kind of think, "Oh, yeah, she's going to go into OB because she worked in OB and because . . ."

Chelse: Right. So I wanted to like prove them wrong kind of. And, anyway, just be stubborn that way and I really did like dermatology a lot and found great mentors. But then in third year, I did my, well, family medicine was my first third year clerkship, and I delivered a baby, and that was it pretty much.

Marcus: She took this Instagram video of her. It wasn't in Instagram, but it was just a video of herself like right after she did it, and it was like all over her face that it was over.

Chelse: It was pretty much over after that. I just loved it. And then I did my OB rotation, and I like wanted to stay and my residents kept telling me I had to go home and I just was so happy. I think that's the fun thing of being in it together. We can see when the other one is like really happy when we're working in something. And that was like a clear difference for me. And then I did a little bit of derm third year, and I just didn't love it. It wasn't the patient relationship I initially went into medicine for. I didn't want to lose certain components of medicine, and so it just became an easy decision. I just felt like I fell right into it, and I just never looked back after that. Marcus' course was much more convoluted.

Dr. Chan: Yes. I remember seeing Marcus a lot. I would hear different stories because it's all about . . .

Chelse: Every time you would talk to him it would change.

Dr. Chan: Yeah. So, Marcus, let's talk about it.

Marcus: Oh, man.

Dr. Chan: Let's talk about how you ended up, I'm not even 100% sure where you ended up because I think everything was on the table at one point, right?

Marcus: Everything was on the table. I started med school thinking family practice. That was kind of like in the back of my mind. And that kind of carried through throughout, but then along the way I was kind of sidetracked by OB, ENT. I mean it's kind of like . . .

Dr. Chan: And psychiatry was up there. Surgery was on there.

Marcus: I love psychiatry. I love psychiatry. I did a whole extra month in child psychiatry, and surgery was there for a while. EM was big for a couple of months. It's so funny because all my friends made fun of me for this, too, because even with my closest friends, every time we talked about it, it would change. And so, when I submitted my application, they had all kind of been thinking, you know, what I was telling them. And then I just, for fun, was like, "I ended up doing this," you know, and it was like they didn't even blink an eye. It wasn't even that good of a joke because they are totally like, "Oh, yeah, that's how Marcus works."

So, for me, after third year that you're off with the MBA was probably the most influential for that just because the time away from medicine kind of helped me gain a little more perspective and what I was looking for. And I settled on anesthesia, which was actually one that I, if you would have asked me in the first year or so of med school, I would have immediately dismissed it. It was like on my quick dismiss list.

But once I did it, I think what kind of grabbed in was the kind of really meaningful, impactful, but shorter interactions with patients. Not that I don't like interacting with patients. I actually love it. But I like the role that you play in patient care and that there's kind of like this service that you provide them, and then kind of you both go on your way. And then also just the mentors and everything, kind of their state of mind and just satisfaction with what they were doing was really influential for me at the time as well. And yeah, I mean there's lots of reasons where I ended up choosing that path.

Chelse: Yeah. And it was at like the very tail end of like . . . very beginning even of fourth year when he was still making his decision. I remember it.

Marcus: So even with the extra year, I was still right up to the . . .

Chelse: Even with the extra year, he was still right up to the deadline.

Dr. Chan: Were you doing like physician shadowing during MBA time and you just kind of little, I don't know, little evening type things?

Chelse: Yeah.

Marcus: I was kind of between like psychiatry, emergency and anesthesia and family.

Chelse: And family, don't forget that.

Marcus: And so my kind of two that I was most involved with was anesthesia shadowing, and then also I was working at the free psychiatric clinic.

Dr. Chan: MLA Clinic or 4th Street?

Marcus: No. It's . . . why am I blanking on the name?

Chelse: I can't even remember the name.

Dr. Chan: It was just called the free psych clinic, yeah.

Marcus: Yeah, the free psych clinic down there on like 45th South or so. Anyway, you know Gardner.

Dr. Chan: I know, yeah, Dr. Gardner.

Marcus: He's kind of the director of that clinic.

Dr. Chan: So how was it like though, like with one partner knowing what they're doing and another partner just kind of like unsure? I mean how much . . . it sounds like did it just dominate like when you guys would talk to each other just trying to figure that out or . . .?

Marcus: Well, it kind of got into the point where I was like, "I'm thinking this." And then she would kind of be like, "Oh, great."

Chelse: That's so great.

Marcus: And I'd be like, "Why are you more excited?"

Chelse: We really had this conversation on that. He's like, "I'm going to do that." And I would say, "That is so great." And I would talk to him all about the pros, and he was like, "I just don't feel like you're really excited." I was like, "We'll give it some time."

Marcus: She's like, "I'm just waiting for you to change again."

Chelse: I was waiting for it to change, but it's kind of funny because that's just very fitting for our personalities, like this is how our marriage has always been. Like I'm a very decisive person, and Marcus is more of a, "I have to see all the options and then I have to really evaluate all my decisions, and then I'll make a choice." And like this is when we go . . .

Marcus: Yeah. I mean even Netflix.

Chelse: Oh, yeah, even Netflix.

Marcus: That's like we'll search for Netflix

Chelse: He'll scroll forever versus I'll look and just decide.

Marcus: Yeah. She looks.

Dr. Chan: I assume you have separate accounts, right?

Chelse: No.

Marcus: No, it's all the same.

Chelse: It's just whoever gets the remote.

Marcus: She just sits there and she like will fall asleep sometimes before I pick one.

Chelse: Or like going shopping, like I can just look. I know what I want, I'm done, versus Marcus can't purchase something until he's seen all of his options. So like this is why we balance each other out. He makes me think about things more. I make him commit and decide. So like we balance one another. So the fact that this is how it happened with our specialty choice is not surprising at all. So we already knew how to handle each other in this way.

Marcus: Yeah.

Dr. Chan: Okay.

Chelse: Yeah. But once you actually committed to anesthesia, you didn't look back, like it felt right.

Dr. Chan: All right. So talk about this moving to the next step, applying as a couple, couples match. What was your initial strategy, and did it change with time? I mean how did that look like at first?

Chelse: Yeah. I feel like it's so daunting. Once you decide what you want, you think you're kind of on this downhill slope. But then you start looking at programs all over the country and realizing you don't know anything. And so both of us kind of took the approach of talking to our individual mentors in our field to get their advice on programs. And so we kind of, and also I think initial strategy for people applying is they'll start geographically limiting themselves, and we did that a little bit but not much, because with the couples match, you just have to apply.

Marcus: We kind of did unwise things as far as the couples match goes through with that regard because we have two dogs and we were kind of like we don't really want to be in New York or LA or which are . . .

Dr. Chan: Because of the dogs.

Chelse: Yeah.

Marcus: Yeah. But just like living situation, we didn't want to end up in like some really expensive apartment with two dogs. And so we actually didn't apply to a lot of those bigger cities which . . .

Chelse: Is a good strategy for couples.

Marcus: . . . as a couples match is not a good thing, right?

Chelse: Well, that's what I'm saying, yeah, yeah.

Marcus: Because that's where tons of programs are within a close vicinity to each other and . . .

Dr. Chan: But what are the values on hearing those, like you wanted to be together, right?

Chelse: Yes.

Dr. Chan: So you wanted to be in the same area, same city.

Marcus: That was always the overarching, yeah, strategy.

Chelse: We always re-emphasized again and again and again, like our number one priority was each other and we couldn't let the match come between that, because if you let it, it will. So we just kept saying like our number one priority is each other. Like any obstacle that would come up that was have trouble that . . .

Dr. Chan: And did you talk to previous couples about the couples match or . . .?

Chelse: Yeah.

Marcus: Yeah. Shout-out to Maddie and Noah.

Chelse: Yeah, they were amazing.

Marcus: Maddie basically wrote us like a script on the how-to of couples match so.

Dr. Chan: And what are some things you can share from that?

Chelse: Yeah. So I think the key thing, one of the very few pros of a couples match is you have always an excuse to cold contact a program. And so you always are trying, after you submit your application. it's this weird limbo time and some will hear from others and that is where the next challenge comes. Once you decide where you're applying, then it becomes challenging because you're getting interviews at different places. But the nice thing of a couples match is you just have an excuse to reach out to them.

So we probably sent over a hundred emails to programs of saying, "My husband has an interview on this day. I'm really interested because of this and this and this." And then actually, it ended up working well for us most of the time, where we were able to secure interviews at each other's programs. So I think that's a pro of just emailing programs a lot because they know the couples match is tricky. And I think some programs, it seemed like they like couples too, because they know they're like committed and you're willing to come if you're both willing to fly out.

And I think that's the other part, sometimes from the West, I think programs in the East or the South are a little skeptical we'd ever really come out there versus, for us, we could really negate that of saying, "We're paying for two tickets all the way out here. We're not doing this because we're not committed or interested." So those were some pros. But we emailed and contacted programs a lot and had no shame or pride and just begged for interviews.

Marcus: And also financially, we had to take out private loans in order to finance both of us doing this, because it was close to almost $20,000 for both of us to do the couples match.

Dr. Chan: And is that where you originally budgeted, or did that just start ballooning?

Chelse: Based on like previous advice from couples, they averaged around like 8 to 10 grand each. So we had an idea that we were getting into that type of horribleness.

Marcus: We did save ourselves a little bit when I was a first year. We got a Southwest card and I would recommend any Skymost card because that most of my interviews with the timing, it worked out that I could use points so that did actually end up saving us a lot of money.

Chelse: It saved a lot of money, so that was good.

Dr. Chan: All right. So, Chelse, how many OB programs did you apply to?

Chelse: Oh, I applied to, we tried not to go crazy, but we applied to 47 programs.

Dr. Chan: Right. And Marcus, how many?

Marcus: The same.

Dr. Chan: Forty-seven.

Chelse: Yeah.

Marcus: But then I had prelim and TY.

Dr. Chan: Okay.

Chelse: Right.

Dr. Chan: How many interview offers to start? I mean like what was the final total?

Chelse: I had a total of 21 offers, and I ended up going on 17, just because those other ones we couldn't match up, so there was no point in me going.

Marcus: Yeah. And I had 18 anesthesia and then with other prelim and TY, and I ended up going on 14.

Dr. Chan: And did you start finding out roughly the same time because some programs, it's like radio silence and it starts causing anxiety on other stuff?

Chelse: Yeah.

Marcus: It was extremely anxiety provoking.

Dr. Chan: Which programs got back, I mean how did that work?

Marcus: Like anesthesia over OB? It was kind of mixed at first. We were so stressed like the week they were starting to . . . I guess it was the week after applications were submitted or a couple of weeks in and invitations started coming in but to different places and we were just like, "What do we . . ." It was like the most stress I've ever been in med school probably.

Chelse: We were panicking, yeah, because we were just getting such different places and then each of us kept having different lull periods. And so it was a little stressful. But I think it's nice in that OB and anesthesia tend to have the same busy interview seasons. It's not like derm where it's the way like in January. That would have been a lot more stressful. So I think what we learned from the couples match is right when you think you get over a hurdle, there's another one waiting. And it's been true the entire time.

Dr. Chan: And did you just have those like Google calendar, where you just like tracking each other across the country?

Marcus: Google sheets.

Chelse: We had a Google sheet.

Marcus: That we would highlight as interviews came in and then quickly put the dates so the other could immediately email. Because in the first couple of weeks we were kind of in this weird limbo where we weren't really sure if we should reach out right away just because one of us got an invite, and so that was probably the most stressful part. But then we just kind of took Maddie's advice eventually, and we were just immediately starting as soon as one person would get an invite, then the other would email.

Dr. Chan: And you felt that worked more often than it didn't?

Chelse: Yeah. Yep. Like all the ones we really wanted to get together, apart from two, we got together.

Marcus: Because also the longer you wait, I mean their invites are going out, and yeah, then they just have the excuse to just tell you, "Oh, sorry, we don't have any open spots right now."

Chelse: So we created like a Google sheet that we could both have on our phones and have live updates all the time that we would keep track of where we were denied, where we were waitlisted, where we had an interview and then the interview dates. And then we also kept track of who had emailed which programs. So we had like a pretty . . . you have to have a pretty good efficient system going, and it took a lot of time because you have to look up these programs because we wanted to make the emails personal to the program, so you have to find unique facts or try to find mentors that may have a connection. So we spent a lot of time sitting on our couch looking up programs and then drafting emails.

Dr. Chan: You probably learned like quickly some programs have great websites, other ones have like this is really vague.

Chelse: Like nothing, yeah.

Dr. Chan: Yeah, there's like nothing.

Chelse: So trying to draft like a fancy personal email was impossible. "I am very excited about your broad case exposure and your great surgical training," like you start . . .

Dr. Chan: And on those Google sheets, would you start just writing notes, impressions after a post interview? Or did you just talk about in person like this program is really good, why or why not?

Chelse: We did it in person. Some people . . .

Marcus: We had a little notebook, like little notebooks that we take with us and write impressions. And then we'd talk about it immediately after the other which . . .

Chelse: I couldn't do it differently. Some people say . . .

Marcus: Yeah. We can't kind of hold it in I guess.

Chelse: Some people say if you're couples matching, like you should try and hold what you think on a program a little closer so that your couple, your other part can just like go into a program unbiased and just open and really evaluate it for themselves instead of thinking, "Oh, my spouse loves this. I have to do well," or, "Oh, my spouse didn't like this."

Dr. Chan: Yeah. Because it just creates pressure on the other person.

Chelse: Exactly.

Marcus: And it totally happened to us. We have to say that we totally experienced that.

Chelse: A hundred percent. But at the same time, like Marcus and I's relationship, like our communication is always solid, so I couldn't not go to this awesome place and not tell him about it.

Marcus: And there was also like one that she didn't like so much that I cancelled my interview for. And so, you know, it's like . . .

Chelse: Which they say you're not supposed to do, but we did that because I just, yeah, it wasn't for me. And so we didn't want to spend the money, so we really talked about it. And so we got over the hurdle of finally getting in the spot where we had enough interviews to feel comfortable with our numbers in the same place, and then the next hurdle was we felt differently about a lot of those programs.

Dr. Chan: Okay, all right. So that kind of segues into creating your rank list. I mean what did that look like?

Marcus: Yeah. It was so hard.

Dr. Chan: Did you like have a, was this all Google docs, or do you have like a whiteboard at home?

Chelse: We did our own.

Marcus: We just talked about it, you know, just straight up and kind of made a list in the notes in our phone. But yeah, it was hard. I will say that I had really good interview experiences across the board. I really liked all the programs that I interviewed at, so I would have felt comfortable going anywhere. Whereas, Chelse, it was much different for her. There's a lot of variability.

Chelse: Yeah. I think for me, the places I interviewed they were all, that's another thing, we only applied to big academic centers. We didn't do community programs, just because academic centers tend to have more options for couples, and then also we both think we might want to do fellowship and so you kind of need those big centers. And so they were all great. But within OB, there's so many different specialties you have to be trained in with like high risk and then GYN oncology, and uro-gyn, that they all had different strengths. And some weren't as well rounded as others, so that was a big concern for me. Especially with wanting fellowship, I needed and wanted a program that had a really good track record of matching fellows because it's becoming more competitive, and then I wanted a good resident research curriculum in place.

And so that just wasn't equal across the board, and so I really try to evaluate every program on the same merit, and I ended up having three tiers really of programs. And the hard part was that some of these lower tier programs for me were really strong for anesthesia and Marcus loved them.

Marcus: So, at one point, it really did feel like she just hated all the ones that were like my favorite.

Chelse: Yeah. It was really hard.

Dr. Chan: It sounds stressful. It sounds tense.

Chelse: And one of his most favorite programs that he just loved, he loves the program, he loved the location and he loved the people, and it was one of my last programs. So I went in and so I'm going to give this everything and after that interview day, I sat in the rental car like dreading calling him.

Marcus: And like I knew immediately when I say, "Hello?" but it's just interesting. Ultimately, there was one I think that was really good, kind of neutral ground.

Chelse: It was always our neutral ground, yeah.

Marcus: That we both were really excited about as well, which ended up being a good thing. That was where we ended up.

Dr. Chan: So you submit your match list February.

Chelse: Yeah.

Dr. Chan: Feeling good between February and March or second guessing or more anxiety or . . .?

Marcus: I will say we had our rank list done like a week before probably, and then moments, an hour before it was due . . .

Chelse: Within an hour before submission, we changed things a little bit.

Dr. Chan: A crisis.

Marcus: We had a crisis.

Dr. Chan: Perceived crisis, pseudo crisis.

Chelse: Yeah. It was probably like the hardest moment of all of it between the two of us.

Marcus: It was probably more like me. I was just mourning my favorites that had died, that like way down on the list.

Chelse: They were so low, yeah.

Marcus: And I was just kind of having . . . and then I realized because anesthesia has, some programs have our advanced meeting, the first year is not included in training. And so I had realized we had ranked some advanced above certain categoricals, and so I was like, "We need to hurry and decide again, is it more important that we're together all four years, or would you rather be at this place and potentially be a year a part at least?"

Chelse: And so we did and we went with our number one priority like an hour before it was due. We rearranged it so that all the programs that included all four years for Marcus, meaning we will be together for all four, we ranked those higher to give us the best shot of being together for all four because we decided that's what was most important. And I will say like our number one strength in our marriage has always been communication, and I think that's why we were able to survive it and come out stronger, because it's just so hard because you're balancing your love for each other within your own career goals and your own love for these programs, and it's hard when you really feel connected with a program and you love the people and you have that feeling while you're there of, "This is my place," and then you talk to your spouse and they're like, "Uh, that's not my place at all." So it's like this very, it's hard.

Marcus: It's hard.

Chelse: It's really . . . I'm not going to sugar coat it. It was a lot of hard moments.

Marcus: And it's okay to be honest about it and have your mourning moment and then kind of move on.

Chelse: Yeah, and that was the other thing. We kept having to say like we have to be honest and not take it personal. So we kept really trying to just be honest with each other. And then when he would diss one of my programs or vice versa, just to not take it personally because it's not about you, it's just trying to find the right fit for both of us.

Dr. Chan: I think anyone going through the match, I think it's doubly hard with couples. I mean you're forced to make decisions on, I would argue, limited information, right, because you have like the websites and you have these interview days and then . . .

Chelse: Which they always present the best face.

Dr. Chan: Yeah. And then like you started talking to other people and other people have all these other opinions. It's like, "Oh, you know, that's a great program. Oh, you know, I heard blah blah blah blah." You know, so it's almost like this rumor mill.

Marcus: And then you have the post-interview communication which you kind of like, "Oh, maybe like they're a little more than I thought." It was sunny there that day and I mean there's, you know, all sorts of . . .

Dr. Chan: The residents seemed to be happy, but why are they happy?

Chelse: Right, and that's the hard thing, too. You're in a city because you're traveling so much interview to interview, you're in the city maybe for, if you're there for a long time, it's like a day, a complete 24-hour stint if that's a long one. So it's hard to re-evaluate can I move here for four years? And that was especially hard when we weren't there together to kind of explore the city together. So it's honestly going off of your gut.

Dr. Chan: All right. So submit the list, last minute changes, feeling good about it. What was more stressful, the Monday or the Friday? And where were you on Monday when you got the email?

Marcus: We were both at home.

Chelse: We stayed at home in our PJs, right by each other.

Marcus: And we just like refresh, refresh, refresh.

Chelse: Yeah.

Marcus: Then finally had to like log in to the website.

Chelse: We didn't wait for the email. We just logged in to the NRNP to look, and then it said we, he found his first and it said that he had matched and mine just said not so eligible. And I was like, "What does that mean?" So then we finally . . .

Marcus: Well, there's just like an area where it says that.

Chelse: So, when we finally found it and when we both matched, we just started screaming and then hugged each other. I cried, he didn't cry.

Marcus: I think it was still stressful on Monday just with the advanced.

Dr. Chan: That's where you learn if you matched and on Friday you learn where you matched.

Chelse: So, Monday, it was really stressful and then there was a little bit of a stress taken off once we knew we had matched but not much just because with both of us, we kept wondering are we together all four years? Are we together that first year?

Dr. Chan: And you couldn't tell on the way it was worded on Monday if you weigh in like the categorical . . .

Marcus: It was just successful, so that could have been any, a combination of things that we did.

Chelse: So there was still so much anxiety.

Marcus: And we actually at the very end of our list, we did rank different programs. So she did like her favorites and I did my favorite. So there was still, you know, theoretically we could be at different places entirely.

Dr. Chan: And that part was your match wasn't coupled together, it was like de-coupled.

Chelse: Right, it was not in the same place. I mean it was way, way at the bottom of our list, but we thought it would be better for us both to start getting a job and start working and then try and get together.

Dr. Chan: Rather than one person not matching.

Chelse: Exactly. So we did that at the very end. And so we thought like there's no way we would fall down that low, but then at the same time you never know. But who knows, maybe I will.

Dr. Chan: Maybe you just checked that wrong box.

Chelse: Exactly, you never know.

Dr. Chan: On February, you shouldn't check that box.

Chelse: I know.

Marcus: Exactly.

Chelse: So that kind of, Monday took off maybe 5% of anxiety for us, but not a whole lot more because we just kept stressing about are we together, are we together, are we together? Yeah.

Dr. Chan: So, Friday, who's there, who did you invite?

Marcus: So we had my parents, Chelse's parents, her parents are divorced so her dad was there, her mom and her stepdad. And then we kind of huddled in a group with . . .

Chelse: My three closest friends in school and all their families.

Dr. Chan: And I'm sure you've tried to explain to them the couples match, but they probably didn't get it.

Marcus: It took a few times.

Chelse: It took so much, and I still think most of them . . . we even ended up sending them the NRNP. NRNP has like this couples match algorithm video that tries to explain it because we had tried so many times and we're like, "Here, watch this." And then after we did, my mom and her husband called me the next day and were like, "We couldn't sleep all night because it was just such this, how can it be like this?"

Dr. Chan: Why did they make it this way? It's like a combination of "The Matrix" and like yeah.

Chelse: It's chaos, so yeah. We had all of our family and then my really close friends in school and all of their family.

Dr. Chan: So they were prepped though for you guys to possibly leave, be of Utah.

Chelse: Oh, yeah.

Marcus: Of course they're like, "Oh, you're just going to go where you want to go." But we tried to set expectations, you know, it could happen.

Chelse: Like this is chaos, yeah.

Marcus: It could happen.

Chelse: Yeah, yeah. I know they were ready for it. We really tried to prep them to be ready for it.

Dr. Chan: Anything like just being apart for a year, yeah, or more, yeah.

Chelse: Yep. And we tried to prep ourselves for that, too.

Dr. Chan: Right. So speeches, speeches, speeches. They cut the red ribbon. You get up there, you get your envelope. Do you open each other's, just the two of you? Do you go back to your family, open in front of them? What was your MO?

Chelse: We went back to our big group. So I've always been like this really close friends group and so we all opened together. So one of my good friends, Marissa, she opened first so we were all there. So we got to watch her and celebrate with her, and then Kaisa opened, so we got to watch her and celebrate with her. All this time we're holding our envelopes, and then we opened after that. And we opened at the exact same time and waited until we both had our envelope out to read it at the same time.

Marcus: I'm getting anxious like thinking about again and then you kind of open your own and then look and see, and then looking at hers to make sure it says the same thing. And she's looking at mine and it feels like tons of time is . . .

Chelse: It was silent because we saw each other's and then just kept looking back and forth, back and forth between each other's papers to make sure it said the same thing.

Marcus: And then we just kind of screamed out.

Chelse: You screamed out where you're going.

Dr. Chan: So where are you going?

Marcus: We're staying at Utah.

Chelse: Yeah. We're staying at University of Utah. So we kept glancing back and forth, back and forth, and finally Marcus just goes, "Utah!" He just screams it.

Marcus: And then my mom is like, "Haa! Haa!"

Chelse: And then his mom starts freaking out, just screaming with joy.

Dr. Chan: That's a new behavior for them?

Chelse: No.

Marcus: That's pretty normal.

Dr. Chan: Okay.

Chelse: She's a pretty loud person. You'll love her. Yeah. So she just was screaming on the video. You can hear her above everyone, just going nuts.

Dr. Chan: So how does it feel? I mean honestly like, you know?

Marcus: I would say the post-match hangover, it was very real for us. Like for two days we just kind of like were recluse and just like hang out with each other and just kind of thought about how the future is going to be. Obviously, I'm excited, but you're like you're mourning, because it's so much buildup and you spent so much time thinking about what would it be like to . . .

Dr. Chan: You spent 20 grand flying around this big country of ours.

Chelse: Yeah.

Marcus: What would it be like here and what would it be like there, and I really like them, but I like this about this program. And so it's like this, for us anyway, for me it was like a lot of mourning all the possibilities that now are no longer possibilities. Even though at the same time being excited for where we're going.

Chelse: Yeah. And we talked about this. Like we always talked about no matter what that envelope says I think we're going to be excited, we're going to be disappointed, we're going to be sad, we're going to be afraid. Like it's just so many emotions, so we really did become recluses for the next three days and just kind of were together. We wanted to just be together and process what had happened and like wrap our . . . because the whole time we were in limbo for the past several months not knowing what our future would look like or what our plans, and that was hard for me being a planner. So we just kind of wrapped our head around what was coming, yeah.

Dr. Chan: I assume the program has reached out to you and welcomed you, congratulated you.

Marcus: Yeah. They've been amazing the whole time.

Chelse: They've been amazing. And I mean especially, yeah, both of our programs here have just been so good to both of us. They've been so supportive of us as a couple, and so they reached out and were great. And then some of the programs that we loved, that we weren't going to also reached out, and so it was this weird bittersweet emotion of like saying they're happy for you but disappointed. And so it was this weird catchall, where you're so excited, but then you're also like saying goodbye for possibilities that you had to explore for the past few months. And that's how everybody feels no matter what. It's so exciting and so wonderful, and then like kind of sad all at the same time. But yeah, we were so happy.

Dr. Chan: Did any of your friends matched into Utah programs with you, or is it brand new, you're going to have a brand new set of friends next year, co-residents?

Chelse: Well, I got super lucky. So one of my . . . I take it back. One of my really good friends who's also doing OB, she matched here as well. And the U's never taken two residents, so we saw each other from across the room and we're looking at each other and like, "Where are you going?" And we both pointed down to the ground and then we just like jumped over tables and people and just ran together and started hugging. So one of my co-residents is one of my closest friends from our class.

Dr. Chan: That's great.

Chelse: That's pretty amazing.

Marcus: Yeah. There's a few.

Chelse: There's a few.

Marcus: So I'm doing the internal medicine first year here, and there's quite a few classmates from Utah as well. And then there's five of us total that matched into the Utah Anesthesia Program, which is it's a lot more than usual.

Dr. Chan: Five internal?

Marcus: So five for anesthesia.

Dr. Chan: Five for anesthesia. How many spots for anesthesia?

Marcus: There's 14 or 15.

Dr. Chan: Okay, so almost a third. That's pretty impressive.

Chelse: Yeah. There was a huge proportion of our class this year though too who did anesthesia. It was a popular year.

Dr. Chan: Amazing, that's great.

Chelse: Yeah, so we're happy. And it's fine because we're staying and our family is close so that's really convenient. And then it's also sad because some of our really close friends are leaving, and we experience that when all of his classmates left for residency, like they're leaving and we're staying because he had to finish the year with me. So it kind of feels like that, again, but exciting because you're moving on to residency, which is an all new beast in and of itself.

Dr. Chan: Yeah. And I assume you've gotten your contracts.

Chelse: Yeah.

Dr. Chan: I remember when I got my first contract, I was like, "Wow, this is a really long document." I've never made that much money before. I've never signed anything like that before.

Marcus: The positive number. Oh, that's good.

Chelse: Oh, my gosh, yeah. We're so excited.

Marcus: That's new to our bank account.

Chelse: It's very new to our bank account, so yeah. I know, it's exciting and we're just ready. We feel like we survived the pre-med course a little bit together, we survived med school together, and now it's just like we're very ready for the next step.

Dr. Chan: When does the next step start?

Marcus: Well, step three is . . .

Chelse: Oh, yeah, step three.

Marcus: We're actually going to prep for a step together.

Chelse: Yeah, we do. We still got to prep for a board. We'll see how we do. We both start orientation like around June 12th or so, and then our start date is June 24th.

Dr. Chan: Okay. Wow. It's happening so fast.

Chelse: I know, and that's why it really does feel surreal. Like we think back, I remember when you called him so vividly and then his white coat. And then when you called me and then my white coat, like these huge milestones, it's crazy to think that I mean for him that was almost five years ago.

Dr. Chan: Yeah. Just to watch you progress and learn and grow into your roles and I'm just excited you're going to stay around, because I'm going to run into you, you know, because I wander around a lot.

Chelse: Yeah. I'll see you on the second floor.

Dr. Chan: Yeah. I'm wandering the hospital all the time, and, you know, you guys will be in and out. I think your hours will probably get much worse.

Chelse: Yes. Yeah, we're ready.

Marcus: To be expected.

Chelse: Yeah. It's weird because we're equal parts excited and terrified, because you know there's a whole other level of responsibility. So that's scary, but at the same time you can't stay a med student, like you're very ready to move on to the next step.

Dr. Chan: Cool. Well, we'll have to have you come back and get little updates and see how like intern year is going.

Chelse: We'll have more wrinkles and gray circles, and grays, and we'll let you know.

Dr. Chan: But have more babies named after you because you helped birth them. Little Chelse babies running around.

Chelse: I know. Hopefully, I get to like birth them on my birthday. I mean it's going to be awesome. I'm so excited.

Marcus: Because you know you'll be working on your birthday.

Chelse: I know, for sure.

Dr. Chan: And then Marcus will be intubating people and bringing people back to life. You know, powerful drugs, yeah.

Chelse: We are hopeful that like one day when I'm in GYN or oncology surgery, he'll be the anesthesia resident and I can . . .

Marcus: She really looks forward to telling me to . . .

Chelse: Table up, table up, table down. Anesthesia, wake up, do your job.

Dr. Chan: The person's moving. What's going on?

Chelse: I know. Do your job. I think it will be fun to like be together.

Marcus: She really looks forward to that.

Dr. Chan: Sparking out some worries for Marcus there.

Chelse: Yeah, mm-hmm.

Dr. Chan: Well, I'm excited for you guys. This is exciting, so this is great.

Chelse: We're excited. We feel really grateful.

Marcus: Yeah. We feel really lucky to be in a great program and together.

Chelse: We're great people. Like we know exactly what we're getting into and we're so excited about it.

Dr. Chan: Cool. All right. Well, thanks for coming on.

Marcus: Thanks.

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 Science Radio online at