Sunday, February 20, 2011

Preparing for the NRMP Residency Match

Every year, the residency application and interview process culminates in the Match. Though you used ERAS to transmit your application materials to residency programs, the NRMP is the organization that administers the Match. In this process, you prepare a list of the programs you interviewed at, putting them in the precise order that you would prefer to go to them for residency training. Here are a few points that explain this confusing process:

1) You should rank every single program you interviewed at, unless you would rather be unmatched than go to a specific program.
2) You should rank the programs in the order that you hope to match to each one. The NRMP algorithm is skewed in the applicant's favor; it will not hurt you to list your favorite program first, even if you think you have no chance of matching there.
3) The rank list you certify with the NRMP is a legally binding commitment. If you match to a program on your list, that's where you will be going.
4) The deadline for certifying your rank list with the NRMP is 9:00 PM Eastern time on February 23, 2011. However, I strongly suggest that you certify your list well in advance of that deadline. I've heard horror stories in the past about power failures and bad Internet connections, and if you don't meet that deadline there is nothing that anyone can do for you.

Additionally, it can be difficult to decide what criteria to use when ranking these programs. Here is an incomplete list of factors to consider when preparing your rank order list:

  • salary and benefit options
  • geographical location (which part of the United States, as well as urban versus rural areas)
  • population dynamics of the community
  • the program's accreditation standing
  • the PGY-3 pass rate
  • support for professional development (such as attending conferences)
  • the program's academic strengths
  • long-term connections with that program (do you see yourself doing a fellowship there? how many residents become attendings?)
  • opposed/unopposed programs
  • the number of rotations done away from the hospital (which might separate you from your family for lengths of time)
  • the program's individual values
  • your prior contacts within the program (such as medical school alumni)
  • how this move would affect your family
Of course, you need to decide how important each factor is for you. Some might not be important at all, and there might be other considerations specific to your situation that aren't listed here.

I wish you the best of luck during the Match! Please contact me if you don't match successfully, and I will give you a free consultation to help you prepare for next year.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Join a committee

One great way to strengthen your candidacy for residency is to join a medical school committee. Typically, there are a variety of committees chaired by a dean or faculty member that meet regularly to discuss campus issues, such as ways to improve the curriculum, improve student life, adjudicate legal matters, or prepare for an upcoming re-accreditation process.

There are strong potential benefits to joining a campus committee. You'll learn a lot about how your medical school works, making you better informed and more well-rounded during your interviews. Also, many residency directors assess both the short-term and long-term benefits of your ERAS application. Short term, of course they want to know that you have the knowledge base and patient skills to be a great resident. But long-term, they might hope that you would stay at the hospital after your training and help guide the next version of the residency curriculum. Your committee experience could be an important factor in the residency director's decision.

Committee involvement could help your application in other ways. Your dean would include it in your MSPE, hopefully praising you for your dedication to the medical school community. Additionally, the chair of the committee could be the source of a strong letter of recommendation, especially if you two also worked together in a clinical or research capacity.

However, your academic transcript and USMLE scores need to be a priority! Don't join a committee if you can't balance your life. Many student committee members join in the pre-clerkship years, and leave when they start clinical rotations, and that might be the right plan for you too. There are also certain committees that would greatly benefit from the perspective of a third-year or fourth-year student. So if you're interested in getting more involved, talk to your dean at any time about opportunities.