March is a big month for graduating medical students because everyone is focused on Match Day, when people learn which hospital they matched at and in which specialty. It is a cathartic day indeed—the culmination of years of hard work and determination.
The UMHS Endeavour takes a look at what the Match is and the history of Match Day. We will examine Match history from various sources and also speak to a UMHS official about why the Match and Match Day are so important for graduating medical students.
Residencies in the early to mid-20th century
In the first half of the 1900s, competition from hospitals for internships for new medical school graduates was fierce. There was such a demand that hospitals started making early offers to students shortly before they graduated.
“By the 1940s, appointments were often made as early as the beginning of the junior year of medical school,” Alvin E. Roth, Ph.D. wrote in “The Origins, History and Design of the Resident Match” on the JAMA Network site.
Obtaining a residency was quite different back then. Dr. Roth said that “hospitals had little information about students' performance, and students frequently had to make a final decision to accept or reject an offer without knowing which other offers might be forthcoming.”
Right after World War II—from 1945 to 1952—hospitals worked on creating a uniform date for graduating med students to accept offers at healthcare facilities to make the process less chaotic.
“Hospitals often had to scramble for available students, since if an offer was rejected, it was often too late for them to reach their next preferred candidate," Dr. Roth said. "A centralized clearinghouse was thus developed as a way of alleviating this chaos and allowing a larger role to the preferences of both students and hospitals. This evolved into the current matching program, whose algorithm continues to be updated to take account of changing needs of applicants, such as growth in the number of couples who seek two positions in the same vicinity."
When was the first Match Day?
The first Match Day was held in 1952, established by the National Residency Matching Program (NRMP).
“The National Resident Matching Program (NRMP), or The Match, is a private, non-profit organization established in 1952 at the request of medical students to provide an orderly and fair mechanism for matching the preferences of applicants for U.S. residency positions with the preferences of residency program directors,” the NRMP website says.
Patrick McCormick, Associate Dean of Academic & Student Affairs at UMHS, explained the significance of Match Day (held on the third Friday in March annually).
“To medical students, Match Day is more important than anything, even more important than actual graduation,” he said. “It’s a moment in time where everything they have worked so hard for, have sacrificed so much for, comes together in an ultimate reveal—the stakes of the answer couldn’t be any higher. Match Day answers the life-changing questions of, ‘Where will I be picking up and moving in order to redefine myself as a professional in the most noble field there is? Where will I be privileged to begin my career as a resident physician?’ Quite simply, it’s the day a medical student’s dream comes true.”
Today's residency Match now includes graduates from allopathic as well as osteopahtic medical schools & students from both the US and non-US international medical schools. This includes graduates of Caribbean medical schools. Photo: Deposit Photos.
The Mededits.com website notes that today’s Match is a bit different from its early days and has evolved “to include osteopathic students and both US and non-US international medical graduates.”
The NRMP website notes the type of programs in the general residency match:
- Categorical-C: programs that begin in the PGY-1 year and provide the full training required for specialty board certification.
- Primary-M: categorical programs in primary care medicine and primary care pediatrics that begin in the PGY-1 year and provide the full training required for specialty board certification.
- Advanced-A: programs that begin in the PGY-2 year after a year of prerequisite training.
- Preliminary-P: one-year programs that begin in the PGY-1 year and provide prerequisite training for advanced programs.
- Physician-R: programs that are reserved for physicians who have had prior graduate medical education. Reserved programs offer PGY-2 positions that begin in the year of the Match and thus are not available to senior medical students.
NRMP fellowship matches run the gamut from Colon and Rectal Surgery Match to the Sports Medicine Match and more.
Why is Match Day so important?
Patrick McCormick of UMHS explained that the NRMP and Match Day are both significant forces in American medical education for many reasons.
“While there have been nuanced changes to the National Resident Matching Program over the years, the iconic weight and legacy Match Day carries within medical education and practice is due largely to its uniqueness of construction, and its consistency in how it unfolds year after year,” he said. “Medical students know what it is from day one. Residents still get chills when the calendar turns to March [each year]. And accomplished, board-certified, long-practicing and even retired physicians from across the United States pause on the third Friday in March, as they remember the suspense, the anticipation."
How Match Week works
Match Day is Friday, March 19, 2021 this year, but as is the case annaully, there is an entire week of activity.
“Match Week for the Main Residency Match takes place the third week in March,” the NRMP website says.” It is the period of time beginning at 11:00 a.m. ET on Monday and ending at 12:00 p.m. ET on Friday when applicants and programs learn the results of the Match. Positions left unfilled after the matching algorithm has been processed are offered to eligible applicants through the Match Week Supplemental Offer and Acceptance Program® (SOAP®). Applicants should spend time familiarizing themselves with Match Week information and resources.”
At 11am Eastern on Monday, March 15, 2021, students will learn if they matched, but not where.
“Match status notification is sent by email, and applicants also can use a mobile device to access their match status in the Registration, Ranking, and Results® (R3®) system,” the NRMP website says. "Applicants who learn they are matched are invited to join the joint NRMP, AMA, AAMC, AACOM, AOA Match Week celebration by downloading “I Matched!” images, sharing messages using #Match2021 throughout the week, submitting videos for the YouTube playlist to firstname.lastname@example.org, and following the celebration on the joint campaign Tagboard and YouTube playlist pages.”
UMHS Match Day social media
Follow along with UMHS students as they find out and share their match day results!
On Instagram, follow - @umhs_stkitts and use #umhswhitecoat
(Top photo) Match Day is held the third Friday in March annually. It is one of the most important days in a medical student's life & when a medical student's dream finally comes true. Photo: Deposit Photos.
Scott is Director of Digital Content at UMHS and editor of the UMHS Endeavour blog. When he's not writing about UMHS students, faculty, events, public health, alumni and UMHS research, he writes and edits Broadway theater reviews for a website he publishes in New York City, StageZine.com.