Match Day 2024: ‘Take 3 deep breaths … and have faith’

On Nov. 14, 2020, the University of Michigan was blown out by Big Ten rival Wisconsin 49-11, dropping the Wolverines to 1-3 in a pandemic-shortened season. Questions swirled about the future of the Michigan program and its high-profile head coach. The Wolverines would finish the season a disappointing 2-4.

A day after the loss, star quarterback recruit and soon-to-be Wolverine J.J. McCarthy sent out this tweet:

“I want all Michigan fans to do this. Take 3 deep breaths … and have faith. Faith that every single Coach, player, employee in that building is doing everything they possibly can to be great.”

A tweet that turned out to be prophetic.

I have previously written about my own failures and setbacks. From dropping out of university in 1994 (and 1995, just to be sure), to going unmatched through CaRMS (the Canadian Residency Matching Service) in 2003.

Going unmatched gave me some serious doubts about my abilities. My skills. Was it a mistake to go into medicine? Could I be happy in another field? Did I leave the stove on?

Today, I am the only physician in North America with a Fellowship in the College of Family Physicians before Canada, Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada and the American Association of Hospice Palliative Medicine.

Which brings us to Match Day 2024 – today – and the lessons that Michigan’s eventual run to its 2024 National Championship offer nervous prospective physicians hoping to match to their specialty.

Anyone who knows Michigan football understands how it works. The Wolverines run the ball down your throat. They tell you what they are going to do and then challenge you to stop them. Four yards and a cloud of dust. Big Ten Football.

After Michigan’s loss to TCU in the College Playoff in 2023, McCarthy stood on the field and watched TCU celebrate.

As detailed by Sports Illustrated: “There’s perhaps no greater insight into an athlete’s psyche than seeing how they act following a crushing loss. Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy gave fans a small glimpse into his mindset after the Wolverines’ devastating 51–45 defeat in Saturday’s Fiesta Bowl.

Playing in the College Football Playoff for the second straight year, Michigan (13-1) was unable to overcome a handful of missed opportunities and came up just short in the national semifinal against the Horned Frogs.”

Today, J.J. is QB1 for the 2024 College Football National Champion 15-0 Michigan Wolverines.

I see a lot of quiet confidence in McCarthy. A leader of men. Resolve in defeat.

J.J. enters the National Football League draft this spring. A lot of people (usually rivals from the Ohio State Buckeyes) question his ability. They call him a “game manager.” They doubt his arm strength.

The NFL draft is much like the CaRMS match. It distills years of hard work and sacrifice into one binary answer: matched/unmatched.

So, to my fellow UnMatchable: Take 3 deep breaths … and have faith.

“Destiny is calling. Open up your eager eyes.”


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  • Cordwainer Fish says:

    The most important preventive factor for not being saddled with a bad match result is having other options.

    The most important alternative option is the United States of America.

    I encourage all Canadian medical students to prepare an application for the NRMP/ERAS American match concurrently with the Canadian one.

    This has the added benefit of improving your medical knowledge by studying for the USMLEs.

    Good luck to all of you.

    And to those who haven’t matched, or matched in a way that’s not preferential: you don’t have to accept it if you truly don’t want to.

  • Darren Cargill says:

    Thanks as always to Jack and his team at Healthy Debate.

    Match Day can be tough for those who don’t match or even those who do but are disappointed by the result. Make sure to check in on each other.

    Also know that help is available for those who need it. Medical schools offer support to medical students at all stages of their training. In Ontario, the Physician Help Program (PHP) supports medical students, residents and practicing physicians: https://php.oma.org/what-we-do/support-and-referral/


Darren Cargill


Dr. Darren Cargill is a fellow of the College of Family Physicians of Canada, the Royal College of Physicians of Canada, and American Association of Hospice Palliative Medicine. He is the past medical director for the Hospice of Windsor and Essex County and lead physician for its community-based Palliative Medicine Program. He is one of only two certified hospice medical directors in Canada and has his designation as a certified Canadian physician executive.  He received HPCO’s Larry Librach award in 2017 for excellence in leadership and advancing palliative care through mentorship.

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