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Thursday, March 20th 2008

Residency Match

Fourth year medical students all across the country learn where they matched for residency today at noon central time.

For the uninitiated: Medical school is four years in length. While curriculums can differ slightly most schools break it down like this,

First Year: In the classroom learning about how the body works (anatomy, physiology, etc)
Second Year: In the classroom learning about what happens and what you do when things go wrong (pathology, pathophysiology, pharmacology, etc)
Third Year: In the hospitals and clinics doing the ‘standard’ set of rotations (medicine, surgery, pediatrics, etc)
Fourth Year: In the hospitals and clinics doing electives, interviewing for residency, and taking lots of time off

Early in your fourth year (if not earlier) you have to decide what you want to do with the rest of your life. You have to apply for residency in a specific medical specialty. You fill out an online application and send it out to the residency programs you’re interested in.

Residency programs review your application and then, hopefully, invite you out for an interview. Some students may interview at 20+ residency programs. When interview season is over both the residency programs and the students submit rank lists. You can only include programs you interviewed at on your rank list.

These rank lists, due in February, determine the match. The match is weighted towards the students rank list. Let’s imagine it with three students and three residency programs. Let’s say the programs only take one student a year each. And let’s say that all three students interviewed at all three programs.

Bubba’s Rank List Claire’s Rank List Zack’s Rank List
1. County Hospital
2. St. Elsewhere Hospital
3. Memorial Hospital
1. St. Elsewhere Hospital
2. County Hospital
3. Memorial Hospital
1. County Hospital
2. Memorial Hospital
3. St. Elsewhere Hospital

The students’ list above hold the most weight but we need to know how the residency programs ranked the students in order to know the outcome of the match.

County Hospital’s Rank List Memorial Hospital’s Rank List St. Elsewhere Hospital’s Rank List
1. Claire
2. Bubba
3. Zack
1. Claire
2. Zack
3. Bubba
1. Claire
2. Zack
3. Bubba

Claire ranked St. Elsewhere first, and that residency program ranked her first. Therefor she’d match to St. Elsewhere.

Bubba ranked County Hospital first. Although County ranked Claire above Bubba, Claire is already going to St. Elsewhere. Since Bubba was County Hospital’s second choice and their first choice is unavailable Bubba would go to County.

Zack would go to Memorial Hospital. Although he ranked County Hospital as his top choice, Bubba has already filled that residency spot because County Hospital ranked Bubba higher than Zack.

Just imagine doing that with thousands of applicants and residency programs which have many spots to fill.

In anycase, today, after all their hard work in medical school most medical students will find out where they’re going to be doing their residency. Students who wanted to do neurosurgery or ophthalmology have already found out (those two specialties have an early match). But for the vast majority of students today is the day. Good luck guys!