Match Day One Day and One Dramatic Year in the Lives of Three New Doctors

Brian Eule

St. Martin's Griffin



Trade Paperback

272 Pages



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Each year, on the third Thursday in March, more than 15,000 graduating medical students exult, despair, and endure Match Day: the decision of a controversial computer algorithm, which matches students with hospital residencies in every field of medicine. The match determines where each graduate will be assigned the crucial first job as an intern, and shapes the rest of his—or, in increasing number, her—life.

In Match Day, Brian Eule follows three women from the anxious months before the match through the completion of their first year of internship. Each woman struggles to balance professional ambitions and personal relationships, triumphs and crises, and uncertainties and decisions; each makes mistakes, saves lives, and witnesses death; each must keep or jettison the man in her life; each comes to learn what it means to heal, to comfort, to lose, and to grieve, while maintaining a professional demeanor.

Just as One L became the essential book about the education of young attorneys, so Match Day will be for every medical student, doctor, and reader interested in medicine: a guide to what to expect, and a dramatic recollection of a pressured, perilous, challenging, and rewarding time of life.


Praise for Match Day

"The drama in the lives of physicians in training, as it is depicted in television shows and in films, has long fascinated the public. There have also been many firsthand accounts of medical training in popular books written by students and residents. Yet an account of the trials and triumphs of medical training through the eyes of a spouse or partner has been lacking until now, with the publication of Brian Eule’s insightful and well-written narrative . . . Eule is at his best when he describes the challenges, rewards, sacrifices, and growth that he experiences in his relationship with a surgeon-in-training, and he expands the scope of the book by describing the lives of two other medical couples . . . Throughout the book, how people make the transition from being medical students to being doctors is explained in revealing detail. Yet the accounts in this narrative transcend the context of medical training and give the reader a heartfelt look at the nature of intimate relationships in transition. But Match Day is not a romance novel or a self-help guide. It is a well-researched work, and even recent graduates of residency are likely to learn something new about the history, politics, and function of the Match or the continuing debate over work hours. Medical students and residents will find many insights that are relevant to their own relationships as they move through their training, and those who have completed training will be reminded of the sacrifices their spouses have made . . . [Readers] will find Eule’s detailed exposition interesting and informative."—S. Ryan Greysen, M.D., M.A., George Washington University, The New England Journal of Medicine

"Skillfully and tenderly, Eule interweaves the lives of three medical couples as they contemplate critical life decisions about career, work, family, and love."—Steven A. Schroeder, MD, Distinguished Professor of Health and Health Care, University of California, San Francisco

"Final year medical students have to endure one of the more painful (and joyful) single days in academia—Match Day . . . It's a day that can define careers—and make or break relationships.  Journalist Brian Eule had an inside track on the turmoil that Match Day can cause in a relationship: his girlfriend Stephanie was herself about to embark upon the long journey to becoming a surgeon. Eule trains his eye on his relationship (and that of two other couples); his book details the havoc that the medical field can wreck on family lives . . . He sticks to the facts of his subjects' lives, Eule tells a dramatic tale of the compromises that young doctors (especially women) must make in order to succeed. 'No program wanted one of its residents to get pregnant,' he writes at one point, rocketing to the heart of the medical training tradition—grueling hours and almost complete devotion to the job. As he writes, many hospitals seem to want to discourage their young doctors from even the idea of having a family life. There's little doubt that anyone who reads Match Day will look at their doctors in the same way."—Gilbert Cruz, Time

"A marvelous coming of age narrative about three young doctors and the choices they make. Match Day isn’t just about stethoscopes and scalpels; it’s packed full of the hidden stuff—romances ruined; romances saved; late-night panics and an unshakeable desire to lead America’s next generation of healers."—George Anders, The New York Times bestselling author of Perfect Enough

“The phrase 'match day' has long been part of medical jargon in the United States. With this book, Brian Eule makes it part of our non-fiction literature. In humane and incisive portraits of three medical students and their loved ones, he conveys the struggle to balance professional aspiration and romantic attachment.”—Samuel G. Freedman, author of Who She Was and Upon This Rock

"[A] highly informative account of three young doctors beginning their hospital residencies.  Some 15,000 fourth-year U.S. medical students, nearly half women, are assigned residencies each spring in a national ritual called 'Match Day.' Eule’s debut weaves the experiences of three fledgling female doctors who in 2006 were matched with teaching hospitals—based on their preferences and other complex data—for their first year of extended training as residents. The author traces the many fears, uncertainties and challenges they experienced while working 24-hour shifts and 80-hour workweeks. Beyond checking on patients and writing orders or prescriptions, his subjects struggled to find their way in hospitals, where they were often mistaken for nurses, and to balance careers and romantic relationships in a profession that strongly discourages marriage and pregnancy. 'I will never hire another pair of ovaries to work in this department again,' said one medical director. Eule interweaves three compelling narratives. One spotlights his girlfriend Stephanie, the vivacious child of Chinese immigrants, who interned in surgery at Stanford. Another follows fashion-conscious extrovert Michele LaFonda, a radiology intern at Danbury Hospital in Connecticut, who tried unsuccessfully to maintain a relationship with Iowa grocer’s son Ted, a medical intern at Columbia. A third concerns Rakhi Barkowski, an intern in internal medicine at UCLA, whose husband Scott was embarking on a career in economics. Eule is a gifted storyteller with a knack for anecdotes; one of the book’s most striking moments depicts his proposal to Stephanie on the stage of an empty San Francisco opera house. He brings us deep into the lives of these young people and celebrates the real-world rigor of residence training, though he notes that 'this model pushed everything else in a person’s life to the wayside.' Required reading for future doctors."—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"These are not the telegenic, slickly scrubbed docs of Grey's Anatomy. But Eule's account of three female interns offers a far more compelling portrait of the unique transition from tentative student to skilled M.D. The transformation begins on the third Thursday of March 2006 for Stephanie Chao, Michele LaFonda and Rakhi Barkowski with the computerized program that matches newly minted doctors with teaching hospitals, fascinating in itself, and then long hours, perplexing cases and demanding senior residents and attending physicians who mold the young doctors into confident and compassionate practitioners. What's remarkable about the account is Eule's perspective as Stephanie's longtime boyfriend and a clear-eyed journalist. Each of the women explores her passion for medicine and discovers its place in the life she hopes to live. But the lessons the women learn from their patients are striking: 'The people in the end who were comfortable with death, the ones who were ready to go, were the people who talked about a good family life.' This is a traditional medical coming-of-age that pleasantly surprises with its reach far beyond the hospital walls."—Publishers Weekly

Reviews from Goodreads



Read an Excerpt

Brian Eule is a graduate of Stanford University and received an MFA in writing from Columbia University. He has worked as a journalist for two Massachusetts newspapers, as well as contributing to Stanford Magazine. He lives with his wife in Northern California.

Read the full excerpt


  • Brian Eule

  • Brian Eule is a graduate of Stanford University and received an MFA in writing from Columbia University. He has worked as a journalist for two Massachusetts newspapers, as well as contributing to Stanford Magazine. He lives with his wife in Northern California.
  • Brian Eule
    Brian Eule