Episode 23: MATCH DAY! How the Residency MATCH works
The path to receiving your medical degree at Ross University School of Medicine (Ross Med) is exactly the same as those of US medical schools. Upon completion of the USMLEs, Ross Med students receive their MD degree and embark on a new path—residency! As of today, nearly 15,000 graduates have reached their goal and are matched at leading hospitals across the United States and Canada. The majority of our graduates secure residencies through the National Resident Matching Program.
In this episode, Future Doctors Alyson Morgan and Kayla Blanchard talk about how Residency MATCH works and their personal experience.
Milena Garcia: welcome back future Rossies, thanks for joining us again and joining me today are future doctors Kayla Blanchard and Alison Morgan. Thank you for joining me, let’s take a moment to have you introduce yourselves
Kayla Blanchard: I'm Kayla, I am originally from Georgia but I did my undergrad in nursing in Pensacola, Florida. After that I worked as a nurse for three years, moved to Texas for a while and then applied to Ross.
Alison Morgan: I'm Allison, but I go by Ally. I grew up on the west coast. I'm from Washington state and now live in California in the Napa area, but I did my undergraduate work at Eastern Washington University and then after graduating from college I moved to Napa, California which is where I reside now.
Milena: Allie, we'll start with you. What is the residency match process like?
Morgan: This is kind of something that I feel like you don't really know until you're
kind of in the thick of it. It's really hard to understand sometimes but kind of a brief overview is the match process is basically how you get into the specialty that you choose to practice as an MD someday. Basically you go through the four years of medical school and then you apply to the match process near the end of your medical school career and what that is is basically one application service that allows you to apply to all of the different programs across the country or at least the majority of them, and it just kind of gives a nice streamline in terms of what the application will look like for the programs and then it kind of just centralizes what you're looking for in programs and what programs are looking for in applicants. It's a process that has an algorithm so basically you apply to these programs. The programs will then go through their applicants they'll give them interviews. You'll interview with them and then at the end you're allowed to submit what's called a rank order list, and that is basically your preferences of programs. The programs will also rank all of their applicants and if the fates align you will end up matching at the residency program of your choosing.
Milena: Kayla, why is all of this important?
Blanchard: This is important because you can't practice unless you do a residency program first even if you graduate. If you don't match then you can't get a job as a doctor, so your degree isn't super useful to you. You could still do research with it, I think, but for the majority if you want to practice in a clinical setting you have to do residency training first.
Milena: Ali, you briefly mentioned the algorithm. How does it actually work? What does it mean to match?
Morgan: The algorithm is maybe a little bit elusive, especially to us applicants, but essentially-- there's actually some really good videos, so if you were to youtube an rmp has a lot of really good and easy to understand videos that give a brief overview but essentially it's supposed to favor the applicant. When an applicant creates their preference list or their rank order list they're essentially setting their programs of by preference where they would like to be and the programs have to also do that for all of that for all of their applicants. When they do that it has to be a match where you're both wanting essentially to work together. For that to work out that doesn't mean that you couldn't be somewhere further down on your list when you do match, so it's not always the first position but it has to be a favorable combination there.
Milena: NRMP is National Residency Match Program, correct? Okay. When do you start preparing to apply for the process?
Blanchard: Officially you start preparing about halfway through your third year of medical school, but really you start preparing on the first day, right? Because everything that you do leading up to that point in your third year is when you really start tp put all the pieced together towards your application so things like doing well in your classes in the first two years. I'm doing well on step one and any extracurricular activities you're involved in, any volunteer things that you do in the first two years, those matter because they go on your CV for your application but really in third year you start to ask for letters of recommendation from your preceptors, put together your personal statement, take your professional headshots and upload all of that into the application, which usually opens around the fall. Most people are either in the end of their third year or the beginning of their fourth year when the application officially opens so you can put everything into it.
Milena: Ali, can you talk about some of the personal milestones along the way during this journey?
Morgan: Kayla kind of touched on those, which is nice. There's some certain benchmarks along the way which Ross does a really good job of trying to kind of keep you up to date and knowing what to do so that you're not getting to the end and scrambling, but basically some of those milestones are going to be like Kayla said getting your letters of recommendation, getting your personal statement and actually personal statements are nice to have a few attempts at so that you have a lot of honing that you can do in on what you're actually trying to say, because if you really think about it, it's not a lot of space to kind of let someone get a good overview of who you are as a person and as an applicant. It's nice to have a few different times to go through that and those are the types of benchmarks that are kind of built into what Ross offers us in terms of support for that application season.
Milena: What specialty are you applying for Ali?
Morgan: I applied to general surgery.
Milena: Okay, what about you Kayla?
Blanchard: I applied to internal medicine.
Ross University School of Medicine Match Day Process
Milena: Now Ali, I understand you're in the middle of it right now, how's the process going for you?
Morgan: It's nerve-wracking. Today is Wednesday and that's the Wednesday before match week. Monday is supposed to be the day that we find out if we matched and then that Friday find out where. It's definitely just all the nerves, all the emotions, you know? Because you have dreams that are centered around match, you have thoughts that are centered around match, and you hopefully have meals but sometimes you don't have an appetite.
Milena: Kayla, I think your story goes a little bit different.
Blanchard: So I actually pre-matched, which is a little bit different than the main match. I don't participate in match week. My hospital, which some programs will offer this but not all programs, will offer pre-match contracts but my program in Chicago offered me a contract in November and so I was able to sign my contract then and withdraw from the NRMP. While everyone else is stressing out waiting for match monday I am not stressed.
Milena: What do you think made you different from the other applicants?
Blanchard: I think for me probably the most talked about thing in my interviews was my nursing experience. I think I had a lot of things on my CV, you know a lot of leadership experience, a lot of mentorship experience, some volunteer experience but what seemed to really stand out as a common theme in all my interviews really was just my nursing background. I think that was something that not a lot of other applicants had to offer um and it gave me kind of a unique perspective of medicine and the interviewers seemed to really like that.
Milena: Ali, I will tell you we will not be sleeping with you for the next few days so hang in there we were 100 behind you. What do you feel set you apart during your interviews?
Morgan: One of the things that I ended up talking about the most in interviews and it's kind of the way that you can maybe gauge what's at least interesting about you as an applicant and for me, I have a big interest in global health and global surgery. What that means is basically providing health care on a global scale and working towards bridging gaps and disparities in healthcare, and specifically surgery, if you're talking about global surgery. For that, I would say I think that was what kind of came up the most in my interviews, and I’ve had a lot of opportunities when i was in Dominica from studying at Ross where I was able to work with the Kalinago tribe, which is the indigenous people of Dominica and then I've had some other opportunities. I did my core rotations in Los Angeles, California, which is close to Tijuana, Mexico, where there's a refugee health clinic helping with refugees who are trying to seek asylum in the United States, so I was able to participate in a lot of these different opportunities which has kind of further grown my interest in global health so that's what I think was kind of setting me apart in terms of having a somewhat more humanistic approach to surgery. It's definitely not unheard of and it's not uncommon but it's something that kind of i think can help just bring a different light and a different conversation to the interview room
Milena: And since January 2019 we moved to Barbados, just to make sure everyone listening now knows. Kayla, how do you feel Ross prepared you for this process?
Blanchard: I think probably where I felt most supported by Ross in terms of the match process was in my third year and in my fourth year too, but like Ali kind of alluded to earlier, Ross does a really good job of kind of keeping you on track making sure that those deadlines don't sneak up on you because sometimes your timeline is really tight depending on when you're able to start your clinical rotations and how that aligns with the match season. Sometimes if you miss a deadline you may miss the match here, so it's really important to stay on top of that. They do a very good job of that. The writers on the OCA writing team are really good at helping people come up with ideas and perfect their personal statements and they help us learn how to write a CV, how to edit the CV to make us look as competitive as possible, and they also do conversations with us where they schedule a meeting to talk about our clinical action plan and our match action plan. They know what we're doing and we know what we're doing, so I felt all of that really supported me in this whole journey to kind of help me figure out what all I needed to do on my checklist of things to be prepared for the match.
Milena: And OCA is the office of career attainment here at Ross. Alison, tell us something you wish you knew about residencies as a pre-med student?
Morgan: How long do we have? It's a long list. I think the main thing that I would say is kind of trying to take each step in the process for face value, as well as kind of remaining in that moment. When it comes to medical education, the first two years of didactics, trying to make sure that you're kind of present and aware and focusing on them just getting the material down. I know sometimes students come into it thinking oh they already need to start studying for step one or step two and these are our licensing exams but at the same time they're a little farther ahead than you should be. I feel like trying to stay within kind of what moment you're in and what season of medical school you’re in could be really helpful, which kind of plays over to some of your extracurricular activities. I know I got really involved in different things, speaking about the Kalinago tribe and different clubs and organizations on campus but not all of them. I talked about zero clubs and organizations, really, when it came down to it during my interview season. They're not going to carry as much weight as we think they will, so really trying to utilize that time to make sure you're mastering your material but sort of figuring out where you're running to, and then choosing, kind of cherry picking specific projects to really focus on would have helped me.
Milena: Kayla, anything you wish you knew at the pre-med level about residencies?
Blanchard: I think I would just add that in addition to paying attention to what you're doing you know at the place that you are in med school. I wish I had known how much my interest would change and vary the further I got into medical school. I think a lot of students come into med school with this dream specialty in mind and so in the first two years especially they get involved in a lot of things that are specialty specific, but then they start to do their clinical rotations and they realize that they don't actually like that specialty or they like another specialty much more. Those six surgery clubs that they joined in their first semester, and they don't even like surgery now. I think that's kind of true for me. I came into medicine really set on cardiology and now that I'm getting ready to graduate I’m not even sure that I really want to do cardiology anymore. I think students find that to be true because your clinical experiences really change what you think you like versus what you actually do. I believe 50 of the students usually change their mind.
Morgan: That wouldn't surprise me and just to piggyback off of that, I think it's not always what you're most interested in because what you are good at could also become what you're most interested in, so kind of taking knowledge of that because there are sometimes you kind of dive further into something that you're good at meaning you're just good at mastering Ob-Gyn, physiology and anatomy and understanding that kind of that specialty that could kind of further guide your interest in that direction.
Milena: I thank you so much for your time, so close to residency date and the match date, so close to graduation both of you. Congratulations! We're super proud and very excited, and we hope you had a wonderful experience with us. Thank you again for sharing your time, future Doctor Kayla Blanchard and future Doctor Allison Morgan, thank you.
Blanchard: It's been a pleasure, and thanks for having us.
Morgan: Thank you so much
Milena: Thank you for listening to Ross University: Checking the Pulse: A pre-med podcast. This is Milena Garcia, your host. This podcast is made for you so let me know what topics you want us to cover in future episodes. You can send me your comments, feedback and requests to firstname.lastname@example.org, and definitely follow us on instagram, Twitter and our YouTube channel at rossmedschool, or on Facebook. If you're listening to this podcast on iTunes, I am working my way to 5 stars, so remember to send me your comments and let me know your ideas. If you're on Spotify, remember to click on the follow button to get our future episodes. See you future Rossies in pre-med explorers next week.