Hello all MS4s. Congratulations to those of you who have successfully navigated the matching process. I fondly recall that day in 20xx then I matched and realized I could stay home with family and loved ones through my training. It was a truly blessed and overwhelming day. All of my work so far culminated in this moment of opening an envelope.
Some students have a different story. Some match a choice that takes them away from their home, loved ones and security, while others can return home. Other students found out this week they did not match. So what happens when someone doesn’t match?
The process is called SOAP: Supplemental Offer and Acceptance Program. It is a secondary match if you will, in which programs reach out to students via ERAS to match into their unfilled program spots. Unfortunately ERAS has been having technical difficulties for the past couple of days, leaving thousands of students wondering how they will navigate this process or if they match this year. My thoughts and encouragement goes out to each and every student coping with this. It’s hard enough to go through, but the uncertainty can be unbearable. Just know that you are worthy, you are capable and be determined to improve your application in your year off if need be. I recommend a research year, preferably paid if you can get it, applying to an NIH program for medical students such as the Medical Research Scholars Program https://clinicalcenter.nih.gov/training/mrsp/index.html
My thoughts on this are that things are different now than they used to be. There were approximately 42,950 applications to AAMC accredited residency programs in 2018-2019 vs. approximately 90,000 seats in medical schools. Granted there are 4 years of medical school, but even if you assume only 1/4 of those students graduate, you have 22, 500 people across specialties only accounting for US medical grads. https://www.aamc.org/download/321526/data/factstableb1-2.pdf
When you factor in medical grads from non US medical schools, students who didn’t match in prior years and consider what specialities are involved, the number of applicants easily outstrips the number of available residency positions. More residency positions should be made available as students invest so much time, money and effort to pursue medical school, and barring any glaring deficiencies, they should be able to earn their MD. Unlike other allied health professions such as nursing, there is no staging of degrees. You cannot practice medicine without completing a residency, but some alternatives include pursuing an MPH, policy degree, research career or working in industry.
A final thought to Match Applicants: There are many options, but whatever you choose, please do not feel sorry, embarrassed or ashamed of your journey. We (physicians) are here to support you and we are cheering you on no matter what path you choose.
Candice Williams, MD