According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, their field has been considered one of the most competitive and most highly sought-after residency programs (source). From the moment Emily Finkelstein knew she wanted to be a physician specializing in plastic surgery, she committed to working harder than ever, establishing more connections to get her name out there, finding the right mentors, and involving herself in research to give herself a chance when Match Day 2023 finally arrived on the calendar.
Plastic surgery first came into focus when Finkelstein started her first semester at Ross University School of Medicine (Ross Med) –
“I was a board member for the surgery interest group [student organization], and when it came time to learning about plastic surgery, I became really intrigued,” she said. “I had no idea plastic surgeons were the ones doing procedures like gender affirming surgery and peripheral nerve surgery, such as helping patients with paralysis regain muscle function and win back their personal independence. There really isn’t anything quite like it. Since there is so much procedure diversity, there are many ways to get involved in the care of patients as a plastic surgeon. However, I was well aware it was going to be a challenging road ahead.”
The challenge she faced came in the form of the field’s competitiveness. During last year’s Match cycle, the National Resident Matching Program reported there were 1.42 U.S.-based applicants for every one position (source). This year, just 207 positions were offered, representing 0.5% of those certified in the Match. Having more U.S. applicants than there were residency openings meant that Finkelstein was inherently starting with a lot more ground to make up to rise to the top of the applicant pool. The challenge never deterred her from the opportunity, and she proceeded through her medical sciences courses and clinical rotations with one goal in mind.
Finkelstein is originally from the suburbs of Baltimore, Maryland, but Miami, Florida has been home for most of the past two years completing clinical rotations through the Jackson Memorial Health System that affiliates with the University of Miami. Although rotations were mostly completed at other hospitals, the plastic surgery team is one of the few that benefits from spending time at the Miami campus location. Finkelstein saw an opportunity to continue making a name for herself as a third- and fourth-year student. “I tried to keep coming back to campus when I was off rotations and just get involved in the learning opportunities,” she said.
Key Learning Opportunities
One of the key learning opportunities Finkelstein sought was back home in Baltimore at The Johns Hopkins Hospital. There, she joined a basic sciences lab studying the peripheral nervous system, which she credits as one of the first experiences that piqued her interest in pursuing plastic surgery. The diverse range of care and treatments within plastic surgery also introduced her to research in the subspecialty of lymphedema, a condition often characterized by swelling of the arm or leg that is caused by a disruption to lymphatic system. With these as her primary research interests, she was granted the Postdoctoral Research Fellowship for the University of Miami’s plastic surgery department as a fourth-year medical student.
As Match Day approached, all her experiences in Miami’s Jackson Memorial system on and off the university campus made their residency program an easy top choice.
“I've grown to appreciate not only the people, but the potential of the program,” Finkelstein said. “In the two years I've been here, I've watched the program continuously grow and evolve in a positive direction. I’m really excited to be a part of that change and continue to learn from and expand upon my relationships with the incredible faculty at the University of Miami. The research I’ve self-started and gotten involved in, I get to continue in the same place that it all started.”
Finkelstein will now spend the next six years as a resident in her top choice, and as one of just two residents that were accepted to the University of Miami’s program in 2023. It’s one she and many in the medical community consider a rare opportunity, but also one she dedicated herself to from the beginning and encourages others at Ross Med to dedicate themselves too.
“If you are 100% certain you want to be in a specific field, go the extra mile and put in the time and effort,” she shared. “If I listened to everyone that told me plastic surgery would be impossible, I wouldn't be here today. It’s going to take hard work and perseverance, but don’t miss out on shooting for your dreams.”
In 2023, Ross Med achieved a 98% first-time attainment rate for 2022-2023 graduates.* To get started on your own path to Match Day, learn about how you can be hands-on from the start at Ross Med here.
*First-time residency attainment rate is the percent of students attaining a 2023-24 residency position out of all graduates or expected graduates in 2022-23 who were active applicants in the 2023 NRMP match or who attained a residency position outside the NRMP match.