Match Day shapes futures of fourth-year medical students

April 1, 2013

Fourth-year medical students

For fourth-year medical students eager to take the next step for their medical careers, it’s all about the Match: The moment where students learn, in a simultaneous nationwide reveal, where they will be headed to complete their residency – the “graduate” portion of medical education – after the National Residency Matching Program (NRMP) has paired up students with residency slots based on individual and institutional preferences.

The air was filled with a palpable sense of excitement on March 15 as over 130 “M4’s” from the Texas A&M Health Science Center (TAMHSC) College of Medicine met in a meeting room in Round Rock, home of one of the TAMHSC’s four medical school campuses. Students traveled from the medical school’s Dallas, Temple, and Bryan-College Station campuses to receive the news of their assignments and celebrate together.

“This is going to be a very happy day for many of you,” said Dr. Paul Ogden, Vice Dean for Academic Affairs. “And it is going to be less happy for at least a few of you.” While students select residency positions they would like to be awarded, Dr. Ogden reminded the assembled group of students, spouses, parents, and other family members, they must also select some as options that may not be ideal for their desired career paths, or that might require family moves to unfamiliar locations. Ogden himself was a member of the Texas A&M College of Medicine’s charter class, graduating in 1981 and securing a family medicine residency before shifting to internal medicine.

After Dr. Ogden’s brief speech and a skit featuring several administrators coming in with dark sunglasses and a locked briefcase to the “Mission Impossible” soundtrack, Dr. Kate Fallon, Senior Associate Dean for Student Affairs, called up students to receive their sealed envelopes one at a time. After receiving an envelope, however, the wait wasn’t over yet: Students were instructed to wait until all envelopes had been distributed, and a general invitation to open them was given. Spouses sat anxiously next to their medical student partners, waiting to learn where they would be headed. Many students walked up to the podium carrying infant children or holding hands with young children who had watched Mom or Dad work toward their dream of becoming a physician.

In a longstanding medical school tradition, a fishbowl near the podium was a stopping point for each student, who stuffed a dollar in as a gift to the last student to have their name read at random.

Once all envelopes had been distributed, the announcement was made that students could open their envelopes. Cheers, laughter, shrieks, and tears served as the soundtrack to a sea of hugs, high-fives, and letter-waving. True to Dr. Ogden’s warning, some looked happier than others, but the general tone was ebullient. According to the NRMP, 78.8 percent of those who matched obtained one of their top three program selections.

As students chatted with each other about their matches, they peeled off from groups and families to pin their name to a map showing where the TAMHSC-COM Class of 2013 will be headed this summer. The students from this year’s class will spread out over thirty states to complete their residencies. However, over half of those students will stay in Texas, and eighteen will be continuing at the Texas A&M’s College of Medicine – Scott & White in Temple, TX.

The NRMP Main Residency Match provides an impartial venue for matching applicants’ preferences for residency positions with program directors’ preferences for applicants.

Approximately 16,000 U.S. allopathic medical school seniors and 15,000 graduates of osteopathic, Canadian or foreign medical schools – over 31,000 applicants in all – competed for approximately 29,000 residency positions. While available residency positions continue to rise, they have been dramatically outpaced by the increase in medical school graduates applying for them, as medical schools increase enrollments to confront looming physician shortages.

Primary care was the leader in matches for the TAMHSC-COM Class of 2013, with seventy-five students matched in the field. As measured by NRMP, the category of primary care encompasses emergency medicine, family medicine, internal medicine, pediatrics, and obstetrics and gynecology. Internal medicine had the highest number of resident matches, with thirty matched positions, followed by family medicine at fifteen residents and anesthesiology at twelve.

More: View a video of the moment in Round Rock, or a gallery of photos.

— Jeremiah McNichols