Match Day and how each medical school celebrates

by Brian Eule

While the debate continues to rage over the health care reform bill in Washington D.C., today at Noon Eastern time, the newest class of 15,000-plus graduating medical students will get their marching orders, beginning their lives working in medicine.

It’s called Match Day and each year, on the third Thursday of March, the nation’s graduating medical school students gather with their classmates and wait for an envelope with their name on it.

Match Day is the culmination of four years of study, and months of an intense process leading up to this moment. These students have applied to hospitals and residency programs, selecting the field of medicine they hope to work in, the city they hope to live in. They have interviewed with doctors and program directors. They have created lists ranking their top choices, as have the residency programs, submitting it to a computer program to make their match. And they have waited, wondering where they will work and train in just a few short months after their medical school graduations. Today, inside those envelopes, a fragment of a sentence on a single sheet of paper, will inform them where they will begin this important stage of their lives.

Each medical school has its own tradition as to how the envelopes are handed out—some providing a mad dash to various corners of a room where staff members have divided the piles; others using a slow, nerve-wracking yet thrilling manner of calling students to the front of the room one by one. At Eastern Virginia Medical School, students dress in costumes, lightening the mood and adding to a party atmosphere. At Vanderbilt, they broadcast the ceremony online to any friends and family unable to attend. Often, the students are not alone. Spouses wonder where they will move, and children await the reactions on their parents’ faces.

Then they open the envelopes.

At the same hour today, screams, tears, hugs, and shouts of joy will erupt from rooms across the country. Much of the future of their field will remain unknown, as the country works through health care reform. But for the country’s newest class of doctors, today will give them a little more information as to their futures as doctors. And what awaits in their immediate future are long hours of intense training, sleepless nights of residency, and the rewards and responsibilities of caring for the lives of others.

Brian Eule is the author of Match Day: One Day and One Dramatic Year in the Lives of Three New Doctors.

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  • Vinny Arora (@futuredocs)

    Good luck and congratulations to all those matching today!
    Speaking of rituals, we have a very interesting ritual one involves winning money on Match Day! More on rituals and the events of this past week here…

  • ninguem

    How did FP do this year?

  • Drew

    This is such a great tradition. I just got a call from a friend back home. He was matched with his top pick. I could hear all the anxiety and tension that had been growing over the past few months immediately leave him when he told me the good news.

  • ninguem

    Hey Vinny, I read your link, and this scared me:

    “Without increased positions, the number of medical graduates will exceed available first-year residency positions by 2016 (some even say 2013!).”

    WTF? This is not good, to put it mildly.

    • Vinny (@futuredocs)

      Yes, its a perfect storm – with increasing class sizes coupled with new medical schools, we definitely need more GME spots.
      This is why this is the 2nd year in a row it’s the ‘largest match ever’ (more students fixed # GME spots) plus more difficult for IMGs to match this year. There were bills introduced in Congress to address increase GME spots in 09 but were deferred to committees for further review.

  • jrm

    Yet another depressing ritual in the manufacture of slaves for the insurance companies or the government (take your pick).

  • jsmith

    FM and IM inched up a very little bit. FM matched the same number as it did 2 years ago. No great shakes, but no plummet either. The primary care shortage carries on without change.

  • family practitioner

    Beware the spin.
    FM inched up a little bit, but the AAFP is proclaiming “Fill rate for family medicine highest ever.”
    This is primarily because total spots offered has declined from 3,365 in 1999 to 2,630 in 2010 (down 22 percent).

  • DO Student

    Don’t forget that DO’s had their match day over a month ago. I believe that the stats regarding primary care are very similar.

  • Dan

    Not sure what you guys are reading as far as how many spots there are vs. med school graduates because not only US grads are vying for these spots, but the scramble included 7000+ students and 1000+ residency spots. As far as US grads scrambling (including 13 of my classmates and friends), I dont remember the exact numbers, but there were like 1060 US seniors and 1050 available spots. Many many people went unmatched, and it will be worse next year.

  • Cindee Hawkins

    It was a festive and exciting day here at EVMS, not only for the Med. students but for the Health Profession students as well (especially PA’s). We were excited for them! I love the way EVMS really works hard to make things special for their students! Go EVMS!

  • Craig Kimberley

    MATCH DAY 2010 at EVMS…you have to see it to believe it!