Increased match competition calls for early support
Match Day – the pivotal point of a medical school student’s journey; the day when they learn where they will complete specialized training in their chosen field of doctoring. But Match Day, with its excitement of envelopes holding the promise of the future, has become a time fraught with increased anxiety due to an imbalance of medical school graduates to residency positions.
“When I was a first-year medical student, I’ll never forget what the dean said on that first day of classes: ‘If you all show up every day, you will all become doctors.’ The expectation back then was that you will graduate and be a clinician somewhere,” recalled Soham Roy, MD, professor of otorhinolaryngology and assistant dean for admissions and student affairs.
Fifty years ago, when McGovern Medical School opened its doors as the UT Medical School at Houston, there were only five other medical schools in Texas. Today, there are 16 medical schools in the state, with 6 opening since 2016.
With the increase in the number of medical schools, more residency positions are available, but there are not enough for everyone, and the numbers vary by specialty.
According to Texas Medical Association, the ratio of entry-level state residency slots to Texas medical school graduates is 1.17 to 1. The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board has set the target rate at a ratio of 1.1 to 1.
“The match has gotten progressively more challenging every year,” Roy said. “We open more medical schools every year, but the rate that we open new residency positions has not increased at a parallel level and what that means is that the risk of going unmatched in the student’s chosen specialty goes higher and higher. This has a terrible toll on students’ mental health and their careers.”
As the result of increased residency match competition, which includes DO and international medical school graduates also vying for these positions, students are applying for an increased number of residencies to try to secure a spot. The average number of residency positions a U.S. medical student applies to has doubled over the last decade – rising to 70 in 2020.
In order to help McGovern Medical School students maintain a competitive edge in the residency match, the Office of Admissions and Student Affairs offers a formalized program aimed at preparing students earlier in their medical school career.
“The Office of Admissions and Student Affairs is taking a proactive approach — providing counseling as early as in their first year as to what will happen and how they can be competitive,” explained Roy, who joined the Office of Admissions and Student Affairs in 2016 to focus on residency match coaching after similar success in the Department of Otorhinolaryngology.
The Office of Admissions and Student Affairs works directly with students and faculty advisers in each department, fine-tuning their coaching program.
A successful match, said Margaret McNeese, MD, vice dean for Admissions and Student Affairs, is when the students are happy with their selection. “We need to help our students make a specialty selection that they will enjoy today and 10 years from now,” she said.
Matching students to residencies in Texas is important for the health of our community and the entire state, McNeese added.
“We are here to educate future physicians for the state of Texas and to encourage our students to remain in Texas,” she said. “In order to do that, we must identify and highlight programs that meet our students’ needs. The majority of physicians will stay and practice in Texas if they complete their residency in Texas.”
The Office of Admissions and Student Affairs is focused on preparing students not only for the match but for their careers.