Since mid-summer, graduating medical students nationwide have been applying for medical residencies across the country.
The application wish list has many variables: whether to practice at a small or large hospital, work with a specific renowned physician or be close to family, friends or fiances. Add to that the "location, location, location" factor and months of excitement—and sometimes anxiety—precede Match Day, when the results are announced at the same time at medical schools around the country.
This year, Match Day is March 16, and it is tradition here for students to open envelopes with their results lottery style, in front of the entire graduating class. There are lots of whoop-whoops, whews, ahhhhs and a few ohhhhhs!
While the Match Day process of matching student to residency is overseen nationally, the way in which students receive the news and how they celebrate the results are managed at the college level and completely overseen by the student body, says IvaDean Lair-Adolph, assistant dean in the office of student affairs and admissions. "They fill out their residency applications, they pick out their music, they order the food; basically we only come in and hand out the envelopes,” she adds in her ever humble, student-focused way.
However, there’s just a little more to it, undertaken by both the students and the faculty. First, students begin applying online to the Electronic Residency Application Service (ERAS) around July. Those who are matched by the system basically do nothing but cross their fingers until Match Day, hoping they got their first choice, but those who don’t match, which they learn the Monday before Match Day, have to reapply in hopes that a slot has opened up somewhere or perhaps look into a different field.
If they still don’t match with a residency—which happens on occasion, says Lair-Adolph—then a national process, now called SOAP occurs where unmatched students are counseled by faculty and assisted with reapplying and finding a match they might not have considered before. This process occurs Monday through Friday of Match Week. If they don’t match at all, which Lair-Adolph says has happened very few times in her 30-plus years in the college, then there are alternatives such as research appointments or pursuing masters degrees for students to consider.
"Most of them are OK now,” she says of graduates who may not have gotten their first match or what they wanted at the time.
It’s same opinion held by Aurora Bennett, MD, the new associate dean in office of student affairs and admissions, who heads the office and will be handing out the envelopes on Friday at noon with Bruce Giffin, PhD, from the department of medical education. We asked Bennett to fill us in on her role.
This is your first Match Day here; is the excitement already building in the department and among the students?
"Absolutely! Students and programs had to finalize their rank lists by Feb. 22 at 9 p.m. so the excitement builds as they wait for Match Day week."
Do you remember your own Match Day, where were you and where did you match? Was it your first choice?
"Unforgettable! I was at the Ohio State University College of Medicine and matched at UC … my first choice!"
Did you have a lucky charm or anything with you that day? Can you remember any standout moment, either by you or a fellow student?
"My lucky charm was my husband (of two months) and a ring given to me by my father who was a family medicine MD and a key role model in my life. Standout moments: the excitement of good friends in the couples match who got their top choices was wonderful!"
Just from what you know now about Match Day, how has it changed since yours? "Each school has its own tradition. I must say that UC’s is even more exciting due to each student opening an envelope individually, so the suspense and happiness just build."
There’s a very tight lid on Match Day announcements, and a very strict timeline to follow. Why the need to be so tight-lipped during the process?
"The match is a binding agreement between each student and program so the National Resident Matching Program (NRMP) wants to minimize any irregularities occurring that would compromise the integrity of the process."
What do you say to the student who has their heart set on one place and matches with another?
"It’s going to be just fine. The vast majority of students find that the camaraderie, education and city are just as good, if not better, than that of their first choice."