Match Week is an important and unique part of each physician’s journey. It is the week during which fourth year medical students find out where they are going for their residency training. Up until this point, it has been a long and arduous road with not only all the academic work but also the stress of interviewing at these programs. This is the culmination of all of that! Some consider it to be more significant than graduation, a sentiment that I happen to agree with.
I matched! I’m thrilled with where I ended up. Let me recount this process briefly. Most students choose a specialty to apply to by the end of their third year. They can set up away rotations (rotations at institutions other than their own) to check out the inner workings of programs for themselves and then eventually apply to a variety of programs through the Electronic Residency Application System, or ERAS. The programs then invite select applicants for an interview after which both the applicant and the program rank each other. The Match algorithm optimizes everyone’s choices and comes up with a final match list—to be revealed during Match Week! The Monday of Match Week is when students find out if they matched at any program at all, and on Friday they find out where. Obviously the desired outcome is to match at the applicant’s first choice program, but this naturally can’t happen for everyone. Unfortunately, there are many who don’t get their top choice and even worse, those who fail to match at all. So, what happens to those poor souls who get that dreaded “you didn’t match” email?
After the algorithm has run, it is only natural that there are some applicants who have not matched and programs who have not filled their quota. The Supplemental Offer and Acceptance Program, or SOAP, takes care of this for both parties. Applicants who didn’t match have access to a list of unfilled programs shortly after they are notified of their status. From here, they can choose which programs they’d like to apply to within the next few hours. Usually most of the open/unfilled positions are in internal medicine, family medicine, pediatrics, and preliminary general surgery programs. The number of applications that anyone can submit during this period is capped at 45 to level the playing field for all applicants.
Programs then go through applications and can either phone or Skype interview candidates that they are interested in. This process usually goes on for a couple of days and applicants are usually on edge waiting to get that next phone call from a program. The programs can then extend offers (limited by the number of open spots they have available) at noon on Wednesday of Match Week during the first round. There are three rounds, but predictably most offered spots are taken during the first round and if an offer is accepted, it creates a binding commitment between the applicant and program. I have a couple of friends who have gone through this incredibly stressful process. It’s heartbreaking to see people who’ve worked so hard for four years only to have to prove themselves yet again. But it can be done successfully and I’ve also seen people thrive as a result of their placement!
Regardless of where you end up, this is a moment to be cherished. Four years of hard work, sacrifice, blood, sweat, tears have all led up to this! It’s also important to acknowledge those who were important in helping you get to this point. Don’t ever forget where you came from, all of the wonderful faculty who vouched for you, your friends and family who lifted you up, and all of the small blessings each day that kept you going.
Something I heard from a physician I really admire is that “the best physician is one that knows his/her stuff but never thinks they are better than anyone else.” Sometimes people can get carried away by the prestige of the program they matched at or the competitiveness of their specialty, but it’s so important to remember why we are doing this in the first place: to serve others. Congrats to all of those who matched!