Envelope, Please: All Eyes on Match Day

Tomorrow will be one of the most important days in the personal and professional lives of fourth-year medical students all across the country. A game changer.

“Match Friday” is nearly upon us. It’s been pretty much the only thing occupying the thoughts of Einstein’s students for at least the past six months.

Some are concerned about matching at their first-choice residency; others are worried about matching at all; still others mull over whether they have chosen the right career path, be it primary care, pediatrics, radiology or some other specialty.

Previous Match Day at Albert Einstein College of Medicine

A previous Match Day at Einstein

Those not familiar with the medical profession might think that once students have chosen to go to med school, they have chosen their careers and their futures are clear. For students in the first two years of the curriculum, this seems more or less true. They are in lockstep with their school peers. They attend courses together, study the same material and take the same tests.

But as the second preclinical year comes to a close, they begin to realize that a major fork in the road confronts them: “Do I want a surgical or a nonsurgical career?”

And then in either case, a second question arises: “Do I want to be a generalist or a specialist?”—and all this before they have had their first significant encounters with patients during their clerkships.

These clerkships—Einstein has six core experiences in the third year, including surgery, medicine, pediatrics, psychiatry, family medicine and obstetrics & gynecology—are the crucibles from which the still-molten student emerges.

Along the way, the office of student affairs attempts to provide information, support and guidance in how to choose the right career. By the autumn of the fourth year each student must choose a career path and apply. There follows a prolonged period of travel and interviews, often at points quite distant from the Bronx, all leading up to today . . . the residency match, where each student is matched to a hospital or medical center to begin formal clinical training.

There’s so much at stake for these students, and so many questions: Where will they live for the next three to seven years? How will they adjust? Will their families be happy? How will they find a nice place to live that they can afford? How will they compare to the other residents in the program who were trained elsewhere?

Fortunately for our students, the answer to the last question is often that they have been exceptionally well prepared and shine among their colleagues from even the most competitive programs.

Match Day has come at long last: the students have made their rank lists of programs, the training programs have ranked their student applicants and the national Resident Matching Program computer has worked its magic.

Apparently, that process takes all of five minutes to match the approximately 17,000 med students in the country with all the residencies. Precisely at noon, we will strike a gong and hand out envelopes whose contents—the names of the residency matches—will shape the professional lives of our graduating students. Every year, the joy is truly explosive! High-fives abound. Hugs. Tears of joy (and a rare letdown.)

Ah . . . another match. Time to savor. A few minutes or hours to revel in the outcome of helping to mold our next generation of physicians.

Visit The Doctor’s Tablet tomorrow, when I’ll share a few thoughts on the “day of”—and watch a video of this year’s exciting Match Day ceremony.

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Stephen G. Baum, M.D.

Stephen G. Baum, M.D.

Stephen G. Baum, M.D. is senior associate dean for students at Albert Einstein College of Medicine

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