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An Evolving View of Match Day

Several students happily posing together at Match Day 2018 - Albert Einstein College of Medicine

Students at Einstein Match Day 2018

It has been 15 years since my own Match Day, when I learned where I would spend my residency. Six years ago, as the new assistant dean for students, I reflected on the day here, in another blog post—detailing the excitement, the anxiety, the elation for most students, and the disappointment for others. Since then, as I have grown into my role in the office of student affairs, Match Day has taken on a new meaning. It has evolved from a moment when I get to reminisce about my own experience to a time when I focus on my students’ experience and future.

Advice and Strategy

The advisory relationship I have with students begins at orientation. During the first two years, we advise them mostly in groups. However, in the third year, students begin one-on-one meetings with the deans. That is when we really get to know the students—where they come from, what they are looking for in their future careers, and the type of work-life balance they hope to achieve. I learn about their relationships, their heartbreaks, their growing families. And I give them feedback on their personal statements, learning about what inspires them. I review their CVs, always impressed by the depth and breadth of their activities, and I discover what fuels their passions. As we discuss interviews and rank-order lists, I start to home in on what will make an individual one of the elated ones on Match Day. I am amazed at how open and frank the students are with me about everything in their lives. With every meeting, I become more invested in each individual outcome.

I remember one student who graduated a few years ago. His spouse lived in another part of the country because her career would not allow her to relocate with him for medical school. His goal was to match “back home.” Unfortunately, “back home” had only one (very competitive) residency program in his chosen field. From day one, we mapped out a strategy, starting with the summer between his first and second year. His fourth year diverged from that of the typical fourth-year medical student, all in an effort to get him where he wanted to go. When Match Day finally arrived, we both cried tears of joy—he did it! That determined student and his spouse were finally reunited (thanks to his drive, dedication, and intelligence—and a little guidance from me).

The Real “Match” Day

When most people think of “the Match” they think about the day when students open the envelopes to find out the results and their futures. However, the true “Match Day” happens earlier in the week—on Monday. This is the day when students find out if they matched.

In the office of student affairs, we stay by the computer, anxiously awaiting the list of students who did not match. Fortunately, each year we have very few students who don’t, which allows us to put all of our energy and resources into these unfortunate cases. It is during that week, as the unmatched students try to figure out their next steps, that we meet the students’ support networks and see the resilience that exists in each person.

The Power of Good Choices

We also have the privilege of studying the match list before it is released to the public. (Somebody has to stuff the envelopes.) The prestige of the institutions on that list has always been a point of pride for those of us in educational administration at Einstein. Over the years, the match list has grown to mean so much more to me. With each name and its corresponding institution comes my own sense of elation, satisfaction, or (rarely) disappointment for the person listed.

My goal is to guide students to make good choices. I want each of them to come back to me in 10 years and tell me how well it all worked out; the match list is the first clue to how far I’ve come toward meeting that goal.

So students: on this day, through the haze of emotion that will inevitably be present in Einstein’s Lubin Dining Hall, please take a moment to give your advisors a hug, because we are sharing in your emotions.

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Allison B. Ludwig, M.D.

Allison B. Ludwig, M.D.

Dr. Ludwigassociate dean for student affairs and associate professor of medicine at Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

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