Road to Residency
NAVIGATING THE STUDENT JOURNEY
In 2020, 91% of RUSM students passed the initial step of the United States Medical Licensing Examination® (USMLE®) on the first attempt. And in 2021-2022, results show yet another strong year for RUSM with a 95% first-time residency attainment rate thus far. Located on the island of Barbados and with a network of more than 15,000 alumni, RUSM is one of the largest providers of doctors for the U.S. healthcare system. RUSM graduates practice in all 50 states and in Puerto Rico.
Student Services Assistant Director Vanessa Gonzalez Understands Firsthand the Excitement Surrounding MATCH Day
With an entrepreneurial spirit and a profound passion to care for others, Vanessa Gonzalez is devout in supporting and guiding students at Ross University School of Medicine (RUSM). The Student Services assistant director also brings a unique edge to their medical academic journey. Eight years ago, she stood alongside her now husband, RUSM alum Matt Wallace, MD ’13, when he was enrolled in the National Resident Matching Program® (The MATCH ℠) process and spent the early part of March eagerly counting down the days to find out where he had landed a residency.
“Everything in their lives comes down to this one week where they find where their career begins,” Vanessa said. “Medical school is not an easy journey and no matter how many tools we provide, some are going to forget or need assistance because there’s always so much going on. And if students are particularly frazzled, it’s my job to walk them through it, to try and figure out what they’re going through. And knowing,” she laughed, “that if it happens over the next week, I know why.”
In December 2012, Matt proposed to Vanessa at the Magic Kingdom Castle with their families in tow. A few months later, as Vanessa gushed about wedding ideas, Matt switched focus to the most nerve-racking time of his life. “I remember him being miserable, but he wasn’t telling me why. At first, I couldn’t figure out if I did something wrong. But now I look back and realize what he was going through as MATCH Day drew closer.”
Providing Student Insight
That perspective has made Vanessa invaluable in RUSM’s Student Services Department, where she has climbed rank over the last nine years. “Learning how I can help students succeed is what motivates me to go to work every day. I can see every step from the student’s view because I already went through it with my husband. When students call, we are there to support them and provide whatever assistance we can. We know their time is limited so if we can do an extra step for them, we will do it.”
Vanessa and Matt grew up in Florida, sharing the same school bus since they were wee tots, but they didn’t start their lifelong friendship until middle school and romance a few years later. Though they took separate paths in undergrad, they kept their friendship a priority, and rekindled the spark after they graduated. Vanessa followed Matt to RUSM, then in Dominica, and traveled across the US with him as he completed core rotations. During his pediatric rotation, Vanessa applied to a posted position at RUSM and the recruiter seemed puzzled by her pointed questions. “She said, ‘these aren’t typical questions on a phone screening. How do you know so much?’ I told her we had just left Dominica and I made it to the next round.”
Starting out in real estate, Vanessa hadn’t been sure of her career path. She appreciated teaching roles and respected her late father’s business acumen as a restaurant owner but knew those weren’t the right fit. She enrolled in a master’s degree business program while substitute teaching, and when she saw the RUSM position — which married education and student assistance — she was sold.
Now permanently housed in Florida with two young children and a physician spouse who’s dual certified in internal medicine and emergency medicine, Vanessa aspires to get her doctorate one day. She has spent the last few years as a solo mom, caring for their children while Matt completed two residencies. Last July, she finally got back her life balance though there were a few hiccups along the way.
Despite the fun chaos, Vanessa appreciates unique family time, especially now that Matt can partake in the kids’ activities. For her work family, she promises to always stay transparent. “When students come to me, they are at their wits’ end. They don’t know where else to turn. It’s just about the compassion and letting them know that you hear them.” For MATCH candidates, Vanessa offers words of wisdom. “You have worked so hard to get to where you are today. I know you’re anxious but it’s out of your control. Try to be patient and wait until it’s time. Remember — everything happens for a reason.”
To all 2021 MATCH students, we support your journey and look forward to MATCH Week.
Road to Residency Library
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