The Flight Group Lottery: What’s Next for the Class of 2017

uvmmedicine blogger Elizabeth Cochrane '17
uvmmedicine blogger Elizabeth Cochrane ’17

Many important events happen during the second year of medical school: Our class reunites after a well-earned summer vacation, we study and take Step 1, and we end Foundations and begin our clerkships.  Clerkships involve seven rotations (six or seven weeks each) in different medical specialties including Internal Medicine, Obstetrics and Gynecology, Family Medicine, Surgery, Pediatrics, Psychiatry, and Outpatient and Neurology.  A less talked about event that only takes an hour and is full of stress and excitement is the clerkship selection.  For those of you who do not know, the UVM College of Medicine does clerkship selection by drawing names out of a hat.  Once called you walk to the front of the room, put a $1 bill in the jar, and enter your name under one of the seven flight groups. Putting $1 in a jar is a unique tradition, and the last person picked out of the hat receives the whole pot!

Earlier in the week, we had an info session about clerkships where we heard from clerkship directors, representatives from each hospital, and current third year students.  It was a nice introduction to what was to come.  In the following days, all anyone could talk about was which flight group they wanted, and if they were picked last what they were going to do with the $114.  Third and fourth years offered their advice on which flight group to select such as: Pick one where you get the hard clerkships over with first; pick one where you have easy clerkships during the summer so you can enjoy the Vermont weather; if you have a wedding to attend make sure it is during a rotation that will give you time off and not during surgery; or my personal favorite, pick one where you can be in Florida for the winter.  If you couldn’t tell, basically everyone had a different approach to how they picked their flight group.

Finally, it was our time to funnel into our classroom, Med Ed 200, and select our clerkships.  Entering the room was like entering a circus.  There were some students dressed in costumes, and others bouncing off the walls with excitement. A fewwere quickly making last minute changes to their selection plan.  The selection process began and the audience sat quietly trying to guess who would be picked first and wondering which flight groups would be the most popular.  In the beginning, there was no clear favorite and then Flight Group D went on a hot streak.  It was the first flight group to fill and once it went, the next name drawn got a surprise present—a UVM gift!  Once we realized the slots were filling up and choices began to narrow, things got exciting.  Everyone sat in their seats hoping their name would get called next but also cheered boisterously when a friend’s name was drawn.  It was an exciting event from which the majority of people walked away happy with their selection.  I was thrilled to get group A where I will be starting with Family Medicine and ending my year with Psychiatry.

This is just the beginning of the selection process.  Once the flight groups are finalized, there is a trading period during which classmates can trade spots with each other.  After that is done, there is a location selection where we rank our preferences for where we want to be for each clerkship.  The sites where we can rotate are Bangor, Maine; Norwalk, Conn.; Danbury, Conn.; West Palm Beach, Fla.; and Burlington, Vt. Of course, everyone has a different approach for selecting their locations as well.  I am excited to rotate at a few different hospitals and will hopefully spend a month or two in West Palm Beach during the winter.  Our clerkship schedules are finalized in the beginning of November and we begin clerkships in mid-March.  I know that I am not alone in saying how excited I am for clerkships to start.  I am confident that all of my classmates will do extremely well regardless of flight group or location.  I am already looking forward to the stories and learnings from my classmates on their clerkships.


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