So money, baby

I am almost done with my interviews for residency! I have just one left in the next week, and it’s at the program associated with my medical school. I’m hoping it’s less of a real interview day, and more of a gossip session. After all, all of my letters of recommendation come from this department. There’s not much else to say, if you’ve already said it all in your own letters.

Instead, I bring to you, my obsessive organization and deep love for pie charts. Data analysis is the only way to make sense of a mad, mad world, don’t you think?

Here’s a pie chart of the money I’ve spent during interview season.

This total includes the costs of Setup, which was a new suit and three new shirts, and all the registration fees for applying to residency programs. I had two suits that I alternated between, one of which was a holdover from medical school interview season, 4 long years ago. I’m sad to say that though I still fit in it, it’s not looser — that was the goal. In return for med school sucking out my soul and making jam with it, I was supposed to become svelte and model-esque in stature. Once again, med school did not hold up its end of the bargain. My interview shoes (two pairs) were old shoes, though I did have to spring for new shoe inserts in one pair, as well as re-soling and polishing the other pair. My interview purse was a gift from my aunt (yay, Aunt M!), and probably cost more than all my other clothing combined.

Air travel includes only tickets for flights. In total, I flew 11 times through 10 airports, most of the time round-trip, but a couple of times with multiple city destinations as part of the interview trail. I never checked in a bag. I flew stand-by twice, to get on earlier flights. I got delayed 3 times, usually due to weather. I missed no flights (success!). I ate a lot of snack packs on Southwest, American Airlines, Alaska Airlines, and Virgin America. I did not fly Delta (the Devil Airline). I didn’t count the flights from school back to home, because I was going to have to make those flights anyway for the holidays. In all, I think $1045 (that includes tax) for 11 flights is a pretty good deal.

Automobile is probably better described as ground transportation. For the most part, I rented cars after I figured out that a 24-hour car rental was usually cheaper than roundtrip airport shuttles. In some cities with great public transport, I took public transportation. In many cities, especially towards the end, I had made some good friends who were happy to give me a lift to the airport, or split a car rental. In return, I shuttled people to the airport whenever I could. For the most part, we were all really generous about giving our fellow interviewees rides to the airport. Big shout-out goes to Rachel, who picked me up from my hotel the night of our pre-interview dinner, dropped me back off after dinner, and then picked me up from my hotel again the next morning to go to the actual interview. That was above and beyond, man. Also a big thanks to Jess, with whom I had 5 interviews in a row, and when I gave her a ride from City 3 to City 4 (a 2-hour drive), chipped in money for gas.

Hotel refers to when I had to book my own hotels. Some programs pay for hotels the night before, which is key. I have heard that certain programs can even pay for flight + hotel, which is disgustingly generous of them. I paid for 7 hotels, which averages out to less than $75 (including tax) per hotel stay. This category also refers to when I had to PAY for HOTEL PARKING, which I think is a total travesty. Most of the time, I tried to get street parking, because meter parking didn’t kick into effect until 8 AM the next morning, by which time I was long gone. My biggest feat was getting a downtown city center Courtyard Marriott for $45 pre-tax, and the hotel room was one of the nicest single rooms I’d been in. Or, maybe the Hyatt for $55 pre-tax, in a hotel room that included an adjoining sitting room and pull-out sofa.

I did not include all the airport food I ate, simply because I was going to eat anyway, no matter where I was. I suppose airport food always costs more than non-airport food, but then again, I was usually getting dinners and breakfasts for free, so I think the cost of food evened out.

I’ve also made a line graph of each of the interviews I’ve gone to, and how much money I’ve spent for each of them.

The high spike for Interview #12 is a bit falsely elevated (source of error!), because I got lazy and just lumped in the flight and car rental under Interview #12, even though the flight was also done for Interview #13, and the car rental was 26 hours longer because I insisted on staying the weekend with a friend, as a mini-vacation built into the trip. I don’t think the line graph is as telling as the pie chart. The only real findings I can see are that interviews with flights account for all of the spikes above $100. The two small spikes that are below $100 (Interviews #3 and #14) were due to driving to the vicinity in a car, and spending the night in a hotel. Interviews #6 through #11 were, interestingly enough, on two different coasts, but they straddled Christmas, and so I was able to use either my med school home or my parents’ home as home base.

In a future entry, I’ll go through the different ways I saved money, from the art of priceline’s Name Your Own Price to rebate sites (I love you, ebates!). Oh shoot, I didn’t put in how much money I saved or made back via ebates and retail coupon codes. Nuts.

Anyway, the grand total is $2,702, which I think is a pretty neat deal for having gone to 18 interviews. When I’m truly done, I will have gone to 19 interviews. NINETEEN! Most people I know have gone anywhere from 10 to 15 interviews. I’ve been interviewing since late October, and my last interview will be in February. I’m fairly certain I have the longest interview season out of all my classmates.

I do have to say, though, that when I was using my parents’ home as my home base, all interviews that were drive-able distance were done using my brother’s car. And my brother’s car’s gas. I think that I would have to tack on another $100 for gas money, but hey, I didn’t pay for it.

I met this guy who said that he’d spent about $15,000 for interviews and applications. $15,000. I boggled and couldn’t believe it, but then he told me about the foolish, foolish ways it had happened. He flew 5 separate trips from his home base (his medical school in New Orleans) to the West Coast. He took taxis. He booked hotels that the residency programs recommended (generally, these hotels are within walking distance to the hospital, and tend to be nicer places like Sheratons and Marriotts), and though he used the bulk rate negotiated by the hospital, it was still always more expensive than he would have found if he’d hunted a bit harder. He didn’t combine interviews, or “couldn’t combine interviews,” even though I definitely had interviews at some of the same places he did, and had combined them. I think he might not have been quite so dogged in combining interviews, though. Certainly, flying out of a smaller airport didn’t help the expenditures. He also counted the rent and living expenses he incurred while doing away rotations at other hospitals, which I didn’t really count.

Let me backtrack about away rotations. As a 4th year med student, you are sometimes encouraged to go to other programs and do month-long “away” rotations at programs you might be interested in. The goal is to get a letter of recommendation and a foot in the door, because you’ve auditioned for a full month. This can fail horribly if you are a total jerk or are really awkward, lazy, or hopelessly stupid, because then the month proves to the program that they really wouldn’t want you, whereas if you hadn’t shown up at all they might still be ignorant of that fact when you sent your application. I did two away electives. During one of them, my sublet rent was $380 for the whole month, which is approximately 1/2 of what I pay back at school. While I was gone from school, I subletted out my own apartment, which, if you do the math, means I made money that month. Hahaha. During the other away elective, I imposed on the hospitality of my poor younger cousin and stayed with him instead of paying rent.

I guess this guy who had ended up spending $15,000 counted the money he spent during his away rotations. I don’t think that’s entirely fair, though, because it’s not like he would have been not paying rent or not eating meals, even if he had stayed back at his medical school.

Oh, perhaps I should add $300 to the grand total because I bought a netbook at the beginning of interview season expressly for travel use. Then again, this was a convenient excuse because since I bought my netbook, I have been using it more and more because my old laptop has decided to crap out on me, frequently and without warning. Well, interview season done for $3,000 is still a pretty neat trick, I think.

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Backseat doctoring

Seen at one of the hospitals where I not-so-recently interviewed (why yes, this blog does work on a time lapse):

Of course, I came home and Googled around until I found the image online. Imagine my surprise, when I found that the artist of this painting does a series of Jesus-in-healthcare-themed paintings!

I like this one best:

He’s not even wearing a face mask! Talk about a God complex.

Not actually like Grey’s Anatomy

It occurs to me now that I never wrote about my obstetrics/gynecology (ob/gyn) rotation that happened in November and December of 2008, in a different borough of the Big City. The ob/gyn rotation is a 6-week rotation about… babies and vaginas. Um, basically. I did my rotation at a school-affiliated community hospital that is in a borough of the Big City, but feels like a world away.

Because it’s pretty far from home and the hours are long (6 AM to 6 PM, plus 6 24-hour calls), the department of ob/gyn rents out a nice apartment for the students. The apartment is about 6 blocks from the hospital, and it’s free housing for the rotation. The apartment is a 3 bedroom (well, 2 bedroom converted into a 3 bedroom), 1 bathroom place on the second floor of a house that was converted into apartments. During my rotation, there were 4 of us: 2 boys and 2 girls. I took pictures of the place to show my parents, who turned out to not even be interested. But here are pictures, anyway!

house-outside
Our apartment is the one occupying the upper right 1/4 of the house.

house-livingroom
This is the living room, which the front door opened into. Notice the tv hooked up to random illegal cable tv… courtesy of whichever medical students had been in the house prior to our arrival. On the wall, the white plastic thing with the blue border is a guide for cervical dilation. Someone had decided that that was what the house needed as its wall decorations, apparently.


Here’s the nearly-fully stocked kitchen. Med students from before our time have probably stocked it with random kitchen essentials like pots and pans and silverware (actually, I think the dinnerware and silverware were supplied by the ob/gyn director, from her own pocket). Interestingly, there was no cutting board and no soup ladles. But there were fondue forks. I mean, I guess that shows you other people’s priorities?


Here’s the bedroom that I had to share with A, who I was actually living with at the time, in our own apartment back in the Big City. We tossed a coin, and the winners got to have their own bedrooms. The boys were relieved because they didn’t really know each other that well, plus A and I have been roommates since first year. At least, this is what they tried to say to explain why it was a better idea that we share the room instead of them — I say that it sucks to share a room with anybody, no matter how long you’ve known them. We’re in our mid- to late-twenties, for crying out loud. The curtains on the left are my addition to the house. I think you can also guess which side of the room is mine.

Anyway, it was like living in The Real World house (but less fashionable and more utilitarian), or living in the Grey’s Anatomy house (but without the random hookups). Since one of us was usually on call, it meant that mornings consisted of 3 of the 4 of us rushing around trying to get ready. I won’t lie to you — neither A nor I are morning people, so we both would lie around waiting until the last possible moment to start getting ready for the day. (I mean, when your day starts at 5 AM, you want to delay it as much as possible.) Since A and I shared a room, the boys never knew if we had gotten up or if we had slept through our alarms. But, our room was in the hallway between the bathroom and the kitchen, so eventually the noise would wake me up and convince me that I did need to get up.

I found out a few weeks into the rotation just how much I’d been depending on the random morning noises from the boys as a barometer for when to get up. That morning, both boys were out of the house — J1 was still on call and J2 was driving in from Manhattan that morning. I nearly overslept (and A would have, too, because she was using me as a barometer of when she should get up) and had to run around more than usual just to get to work slightly late. When I told J1 that I hadn’t realized that I needed them banging pots and microwaving stuff and generally being loud in the kitchen to wake me up, he confessed that some mornings when he was getting concerned about the lateness of the hour, he would stomp a little louder in the hallways and even wiggle the doorknob of our room, to make extra noise. How cute is that? Too cute.

Living in a house with my classmates during the same rotation also led to some pretty fun movie/tv-like moments. We would cook dinner and talk about our day, while standing in the kitchen and wearing green scrubs. We would talk about how much we hated our lives and how cold we were while walking to work at 5:45 AM. There were some very minor living arrangement squabbles, but not that many, and not any that any of us cared about, since we were all just sleep-deprived and only bunking together for 6 weeks, anyway (and 1 of those weeks was Thanksgiving, which doesn’t count as a real work week). Watching Grey’s Anatomy in the house was hilarious, as well, because of how unrealistic it was. During one episode, Cristina and Derek sit in the kitchen on a weekday morning and have a conversation. They sit in the kitchen while the beautiful morning sun streams in through the kitchen window. Some other episode had Meredith’s alarm clock going off at 6 AM (I think it was supposed to mean it was very early to be awake). You guys. The life of a surgeon, especially one in late fall, does not involve sunshine. It does not involve leisurely breakfasts and conversations in the post-sunrise morning. It’s one of running around in the dark, eating on the run, and morning conversations consisting mostly of grunts and clipped sentences. Of all the things I’ve seen on Grey’s Anatomy (uh, treating Clostridium difficile with fecal transfer? Didelphic uterus?), this was the most inaccurate representation of surgery and surgeons, like, ever. I was offended.

All in all, I really liked my ob/gyn rotation. About two weeks into the rotation, I concluded that I totally had some sort of natural Baby Repellent, and babies simply didn’t like to be born while I was on call. I also despaired of ever getting to catch or deliver a baby. Fortunately, though, the Baby Repellent must have worn off, because I did end up catching a baby and delivering two. It was awesome. It was even awesomer when the mom of one of the babies thanked me for not dropping her baby. You’re welcome, lady. You’re welcome.

Enter if you dare

I call this one, “Time Capsule on a Door.”

White board with crazy scrawl about the 4 main types of collagen found in the body, with obligatory picture of how cells stick to the “floor” of their layers.

Obligatory ‘nsync picture — I have to say that this was part of a Halloween costume last year, and I couldn’t bear to throw the picture away. Do you know how many magazines I had to flip through to find an actual group picture, not just Justin Timberlake? A lot.

LGBT Equality sign, or whatever the kids are calling it these days. Maybe this is why I seem to have a secret Gay Magnet.

My life in a snapshot. Yikes.

I won’t even show you the picture of my mirror, currently covered in the synthesis steps of collagen fibrils. It’s getting hard to see my reflection in the mirror, with all the scrawl.

Still life

Boards studying, still life at home, 10 AM.