Hometown: Rockville, MD
Undergraduate: Drexel University, BS in Biological Sciences
Hometown: Doylestown, PA
Undergraduate: Penn State University, BS in Neuropsychology, minor in biology
Graduate: Georgetown University, MS in Physiology
What drew you to medicine, and to the College of Medicine specifically?
Meera Jain (MJ): I have always been surrounded by medicine and had a lot of very close mentors in the field fortunately. My uncle and cousins were all doctors, so I had the chance to learn a lot about medicine from a really young age. Also, I went to an all-girls school from kindergarten through 12th grade that heavily emphasized women in STEM and gave me a ton of opportunities I don’t think I would have had elsewhere. Overall, I’ve always loved science, and I’ve always loved working with people, so I always knew medicine could be the field for me.
As for Drexel specifically, my older cousin graduated from the College of Medicine in 2016, so I had heard a lot of great things from her. I always heard that Drexel produced really great clinicians and prepared medical students incredibly well for the real life of residency. Not to mention, I loved the idea learning medicine in Philadelphia and giving back to its very underserved patient population.
Tucker Wilkinson (TW): I didn’t decide to pursue a career in medicine until my freshman year of college. I was considering a few different careers at that time, but that spring was a perfect storm of taking fascinating science courses and shadowing doctors who were passionate about medicine. The idea that I could work in a field that was so intellectually stimulating while also having an impact on my community was incredibly appealing.
What specialty do you plan to go into? What influenced that choice?
MJ: I am going into internal medicine (IM) and am so excited about it! I definitely did not know I was going into IM when I first started medical school. I have the type of personality where I love everything the first time I see it, so throughout third year I imagined myself going into literally every different specialty (except maybe surgery -- I don’t have the stamina, back or bladder capacity to be standing scrubbed in all day long). It sounds simple, but I knew I wanted to go into IM because I just loved the rotation the most.
There were a lot of factors that played into my decision to choose IM. I think variety in my everyday practice and work-life balance are my top two priorities. Also, I knew that IM would open a lot of doors for me whether I wanted to specialize or not, and that was really appealing to me. I did hear one piece of advice that helped cinch my decision, and that was to make sure you love the bread and butter of the specialty. I really did love my everyday life on my IM rotations! Everything from cellulitis to heart failure exacerbations were things that genuinely interested me. If you don’t love the bread and butter, you’re not going to love the practice.
TW: I am currently applying to Internal Medicine residencies and with the hope of one day becoming a cardiologist. IM is all about solving complex diagnostic challenges and developing a treatment plan that is best for each unique patient. I love using my background in physiology to break a complex disease down into its basic components and then teach patients about it in a way they will understand. Cardiology is one of the fields where physiology is most emphasized and I’ve always been fascinated by diseases like hypertension, coronary artery disease, heart failure and arrythmias.
What are some of your favorite medical school memories? What lessons have you learned here that you'll carry on into residency?
MJ: This is a hot take, but I had more fun in medical school than I did in college, probably because I really found my people here! The College of Medicine does a great job at organizing events and socials that make you feel really connected with a lot of different members of your class (and we have a great class!). Some of my favorite social events were winter formal, orientation week and the boat party!
The most important lesson I learned in medical school was the value of wellness. It’s been a tough couple of years for the whole world. These past few years have shown me that there is no way to be a good daughter, friend, girlfriend, student or doctor if I’m not prioritizing my well-being. I’ve taken this time to really find small, sustainable things that help me recharge, and I think those will be incredibly helpful when things get even more stressful in residency.
TW: There are so many memories! The College does an incredible job hosting social events and encouraging the class to attend. One of my favorite memories will always be rocking out to the Dennis Novak Experience during the Pediatric Aids Benefit Concert! There really is something for everyone though, from learning how to tie bowties with Dr. Schidlow to winter formals at the Crystal Tea Room. These little breaks from studying are memories I will carry with me for a long time.
These events have also showed me how important it is to try to sustain a life outside of medicine. Even when I’m feeling really overwhelmed in my work, I try to fit in time for friends and family. I find that I’m way more focused on my work after a quick conversation with a close friend than I would have been if I had sent their call to voicemail. Residency will come with even more work and feeling even more behind, but I hope to abide by this same mindset when possible.
What has it been like going through medical school together? What was the couples' match process like?
MJ: I honestly can’t imagine it any other way. It’s been amazing being able to rely on each other and to have a built-in support system who really understands everything you’re going through. We have leaned on each other in ways that we can’t really lean on anyone else. It has definitely been stressful at times, especially when we were studying for Step 1 and Step 2 at the same time. When all else failed, we knew we had each other. Also, it has been fun just talking medicine with each other! We both get really excited about new things we learn, and it’s fun to bounce those things off of each other.
I think that couples matching (at least in my mind) has always had a bad reputation. I heard almost nothing but stressful things about it, and I really don’t think most of them are true. To be fair, this should be taken with a grain of salt, since Tucker and I both going into IM made things a lot easier. That being said, I still think it was almost better in a way, since we never had to feel alone in the process. When one of us was overwhelmed, the other could pick up the slack. We were able to draft emails, call programs, and proofread personal statements for each other. We always had each other to lean on, and that was invaluable in such a long and stressful interview season!
TW: Studying to become a doctor can be an incredibly isolating experience. You spend most of your time sitting at a desk staring at books, watching videos, or answering questions. Family and friends try to be supportive, but it’s hard to really understand the sacrifices unless you go through it yourself. Having Meera by my side kept me connected to reality. She was the light to my darkness. She knew exactly what I was going through during tough times and how best to help. Medical school would have been a much different experience without her love and support.
The couples’ match process wasn’t quite as much of a headache as we were anticipating! I’m sure this partially stems from the fact that we were both applying the same specialty, so we didn’t have to have conversations like, “Well this hospital has a program great for you, but not so much for me.” There were still some tough conversations we had to have, but we are both happy with our list and we’re optimistic we’ll match somewhere close together.
What advice would you give other couples who will go through the match process together?
MJ: First, identify your priorities. How far away from each other are you comfortable being? What kinds of programs do you see yourself in? Do you need to be close to family? Do your priorities line up with each other? What strengths and weaknesses do each of your applications have?
Second, recognize that there will need to be a lot of compromise, and that’s okay, because it means you’ll be together!
Third, try to avoid the negative voices about the couples’ match! It’s going to be logistically difficult, but I really do believe that it is more of a benefit than a hindrance. It’s not as stressful as everyone makes it out to be. It involves a lot of long, honest conversations about your priorities, and your individual strengths and weaknesses. These are all conversations you should be having if you’re applying individually, too.
Stay organized, write down your interview impressions immediately, and make a preliminary rank list as you go through the interview season. Help each other out, call and email programs for each other, and try to make each other’s lives easier. It’s not easy, but it is doable, and it is worth it. Looking back on it, I know that I would be happy with almost anywhere I match, because Tucker and I will be together.
TW: The biggest piece of advice I can give is be prepared to compromise. It’s extremely unlikely that both partners will interview at the same programs and get the exact same impression from each. If you go into the process with a stubborn attitude and you’re prepared to fight to the death for your opinions, the process will never work. However, if both partners are ready to compromise and have open conversations about what is important to them, then it can be a very rewarding experience. At the end of the day, the couples’ match is a huge commitment, but it can be viewed more as an exciting start to one’s life together instead of a stressful process.
How are you feeling ahead of Match Day? What are you looking forward to about the next step in your medical career?
MJ: I am definitely feeling some anticipatory anxiety, but 90 percent of me is just excited. I think there are a lot of places I would be incredibly happy, and I just really want to know where that’s going to be. I’m super excited to finally have some autonomy in clinical settings. I feel like Drexel has prepared me well, and I’m ready to take on some new responsibilities. I think the thing I’m most looking forward to is finally being a decision-maker for my patients, rather than just offering suggestions.
TW: We are so excited for Match Day! Not only is it the culmination of so many years of hard work and sacrifice, but it’s also the day Meera and I find out where we get to start the next chapter of our lives together. I really don’t have much anxiety about the day because we would be thrilled to match at so many of the programs on our list. The intern year is going to be challenging, but I am looking forward to the autonomy that it provides. I can’t wait for the day when I can finally walk into a patient’s room and say, “I’m going to be your doctor.”