How to Use SOAP (For Future Scrubs)

by Prashanth Fenn, MD

After four years of rigorous studying and countless exams, likely the most devastating news for a medical student to hear is that they have not matched into their anticipated specialty. Thankfully, the somewhat chaotic yet efficient Supplemental Offer and Acceptance Program (SOAP) can be a chance to land a residency position that was a better fit all along. Participating in the SOAP allowed me to reevaluate the passions and goals that initially drew me to the medical profession.

Since many aspects of the application process are left ambiguous until the unlucky few happen to experience the ultimate case of the Mondays with an unmatched email, I think it would be good to provide some clarity into the SOAP. From personal experience and speaking with many colleagues I met along the SOAP, that Monday can feel like the abrupt crash on the nonstop journey of medical training. Given the brevity of SOAP, most students only have a few hours to process this despair before needing to pivot their entire application towards a different residency or program in the same specialty they may have overlooked on the first round. After less than 24 hours to redo what may have taken months to carefully curate, Tuesday & Wednesday are full of rapid-fire, concise interviews, (sometimes 5-10 different programs per day) in order to create a new rank list to submit on Thursday in order to hopefully re-match on Friday. Personally, I appreciated the brevity of the situation since it allowed myself and interviewers to ask more direct questions than is usually preferred during the long-winded interview season. Given the time crunch, the applicant can’t possibly apply to the same volume of locations previously, so programs can be chosen more intentionally with fresh eyes.

I would be lying if I said the process wasn’t a stressful, emotional whirlwind, but I am thankful for the amazing support system I could rely upon that week for relief and guidance. My baseline cynicism was also beneficial in preparing me for this gauntlet, as I had originally applied for an extremely competitive specialty, EM-Peds, with only 4 combined residencies equating to 10 spots in the country; the odds were not in my favor. I had time to plan for the possibility of not matching by thinking about my medical career priorities. During this introspection, I realized Family Medicine is the specialty most aligned with my goals of improving the health of underserved communities, becoming an adaptable physician with cultural humility, and developing longitudinal relationships with patients and their families.

Now as a rising intern of the UoU’s Family Medicine class, I feel very grateful to have SOAP’d into this program. Similar to my medical school area, Salt Lake City is designated as a refugee resettlement location, so there is a large population of refugees arriving in America who need medical care. Our New American clinic is an excellent way for residents to be involved in helping new families establish care. The medical system is complicated and confusing even for those in healthcare, so for non-English speaking families forced from their homeland, it can be truly staggering. The broad scope of rotations allows me to strengthen my passions for both pediatric and adult medicine, as well as explore prenatal & OB care, neither of which crossed my radar during medical school. This diverse specialty supports my goals of becoming a holistic physician who serves low-resource communities, serving patients of all ages.

PS: One silver lining of SOAP is that I found out where I would match a day before the rest of my peers, so that one less day of agonizing in limbo with the rest of the scrubs.

Dr. Fenn is from Williamsburg, VA. He completed his undergraduate and medical degrees at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville as a “Double Hoo.” His medical interests revolve around caring for underserved communities through international medicine and free clinics. He enjoys hiking, rock climbing, road biking, skiing, film/television, and broadening his perspective through traveling. As an avid completionist, he drove over 30,000 miles to visit all the national parks in the lower 48 contingent states. He is thankful to be joining the University of Utah family because of their welcoming and enthusiastic team, helping serve as a focal center of healthcare for the Mountain West.

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