Next week, fourth year medical school students (and some interns, too) will be finding out where they will spend the first years of their career as a doctor.
The Match is kind of a crazy system, especially when trying to explain it to non-medicine people/relatives/friends. The basic gist of it is that each graduating medical student ranks the hospitals where they were fortunate enough to have an interview from most desirable to least, the hospitals then rank all their applicants from most desirable to least – and then someone somewhere hits a button and a computer algorithm matches each applicant with their highest ranked program based on the hospital ranking of applicants and voila! The assignments are put into envelopes and fourth years everywhere open them on Match Day! (there’s actually more to it than that..but that’s basically what happens)
As you might have guessed, Match Day is not all fun and excitement…
First, for most specialty residencies, there simply aren’t enough residency slots at hospitals to match every single applicant. Luckily, no one opens up a blank envelope in front of their family/peers at Match Day if they didn’t match. That’s where Black Monday comes in. From the convenience of their home, applicants get an email the Monday before Match Day that tells them simple whether or not they have matched. Cue sigh of relief or panic attack. A note to all graduating medical students, if you have a friend who does not match, please do not avoid them on Black Monday – bring them pizza and ice cream and a box of tissues, because they need your support to jump right back into the applications for The Scramble (exactly what it sounds like, unmatched applicants scramble for for the small list of open residency spots after the initial match).
Second, nothing about the match is certain. You/your significant other could be at the top of the class, have a stellar application, interviewed at the best hospitals and still every hospital that is ranked is fair game for the match. If you truly have no desire whatsoever to live in a certain place, don’t rank it if you have the option, because you really truly could be matched at any of the programs you rank (yes most get one of their top three rankings but, especially in competitive specialties, any program is still fair game).
Last year at this time, Dr. J and I were getting pretty excited about the prospect of moving back to our home city. I was lucky enough to have a husband who was able to turned down an interview with a top ranking program because of the location and who allowed me to have a say in the rank list he submitted. I went into The Match convinced Dr. J was going to match at his #1 choice – we were already looking at houses to buy, dogs to adopt, gyms to join – wrong. wrong. wrong. Match Day at Tulane is, like everything in New Orleans, a party. After a group picture and introduction, graduates are called up one by one to collect their envelopes with their future neatly typed inside. Dr. J’s name was called and I thought I knew what was inside the envelope. Dr. J opened it and I saw the letters PA and all I could think was “What? No way! He must have got the wrong envelope! We were supposed to match in Boston!” Meanwhile – Dr. J was elated, smiling ear to ear and hugging and high five-ing everyone in sight. I was a little in shock at the situation – afterall a computer program had just determined the next 3-4 years of our life – but I didn’t (selfishly) cry until we got home. Dr. J knew I was not entirely thrilled with the results of the Match and kept telling me, “You’re gonna love Philly, I promise. I wouldn’t have ranked it if I didn’t think you’d like it.”
And you know what, he’s right! Philly is a great little city, we’ve met lots of wonderful people, we live closer to home and friends, adopted a cutie pie of a dog, and even found a place for me to take dance class twice a week.
Happy Match Day to All Next Week!
p.s. If you were wondering Dr. J ranked UPenn #2 (although sometimes I think he ranked it #1 and didn’t tell me)