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Stories from the Road – Finding a Good Fit with COMLEX – Matthew C. Parsley, DO, MS

Matthew Parsley, DO, MS, is a recent graduate of the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine. He matched in 2024 to his first choice: the pediatrics residency program at the University of Minnesota (UMN).

I’ve known I wanted to be a physician since I was a kid, and no other profession sparked my interest the way medicine had. I spent most of my time working towards my goal, overcoming the social inequities I was born into and learning to embrace uncertainty.

I always knew I wanted to be a physician, and I applied to both DO and MD programs. Though I knew of the bias osteopathic physicians faced, the stellar doctors who came before me demonstrated the quality of our education and made me realize there was an ever-increasing surge of physician equality that I wanted to support.

As an undergrad, I remember speaking to my advisors about how much I wanted to be a physician who provides quality, holistic, and compassionate care that complements my innate empathetic nature. I was told by nearly all of them that only a DO school would be able to give me the patient-centric curriculum I sought.

When I received my acceptance letter to WVSOM, I felt the years of anxiety, self-doubt, and fear finally being proven wrong—I was going to be a physician. After I entered medical school, I was able to see how DOs are trained equally in comparison to MDs, and yet, with even more components that makes osteopathic medicine unique.

This uniqueness was the reason why I decided to only take COMLEX-USA. In a world of having others dictate critical decisions for me, this was my way of taking back control and ensuring that I would attend a residency program that would value me as a DO. To me, it felt like taking USMLE would mean that being a DO didn’t qualify me to exist in the same space as MDs, and I refused to contribute to that narrative. My school was supportive of this decision, and the Pediatrics specialty as a whole also seemed comfortable with this.

In addition to scores, I focused my application on what I could do for my community. During my tenure in medical school, I co-founded a non-profit organization for LGBTQ+ folks in rural West Virginia, co-founded a community health and wellness program for kids, and delivered lectures to classmates and faculty about LGBTQ+ healthcare and the use of inclusive language. During my interviews, one of the most meaningful comments I heard was that my application reflected the work of someone pursuing their passions, which looks much different than someone being told to check a few boxes.

I also received praise for my personal statement, which was full of puns (when you have a last name like Parsley, you learn that jokes can be a big “dill”). For me, this was my own litmus test for programs, as this was the most “me” I could be, and that’s who the program would be getting. I like to think that my application stood out because I am always willing to be my most authentic self. While grades and board scores are often emphasized, I felt appreciated for the strengths I could bring to the osteopathic medical field.

Given this, I matched at my number one program: the UMN pediatrics residency. The UMN Department of Pediatrics is one of the main leaders in medical education, serves as an advocate for underserved and marginalized communities, and is full of some of the kindest individuals I’ve ever met. Even though UMN is an MD-granting school, the program believed in me and did not once question my decision to only take COMLEX-USA. With such a wide breadth of patients to serve and so many incredible physicians to train under, I couldn’t have dreamed of finding a program that was a better fit.