What Is The Future Of American Medicine?
What are some of the most important issues in American medical education today? Who are the young men and women who will navigate the new world of health care in the United States?
To help answer those questions, students in the Stony Brook University School of Journalism, with the cooperation of the Stony Brook School of Medicine, spent the past several months following fourth-year medical students on the final and most nerve-wracking part of their medical educations.
Meet Some Of Tomorrow’s Doctors.
I feel like I never worked harder in my life than in medical school.
One day. One moment. One envelope.
One computer program.
Right now you might be thinking, “Leave my future up to a computer? That’s insane!” But for medical students around the United States, it’s reality. After four years in medical school, a single computer algorithm determines where they will begin their career as medical residents and ultimately what kind of doctor they will become.
It’s called “The Match.”
But how do these soon-to-be-doctors learn their fate?
Match Day, observed on the third Friday in March, was created in 1952 by the National Resident Matching Program, in order to help future doctors begin phase two of becoming a physician: residency. During residency, a three to six year period, doctors begin training in their specialized fields at a designated teaching hospital in the United States. When the clock strikes noon on Match Day, every fourth-year medical student opens an envelope with the name of a hospital sealed inside. And whether they like it or not, that’s where their residency awaits them.
How does it work?
Students ready to be matched in March apply to however many residency programs interest them. Then, in turn, some programs invite them for interviews. Then they rank their preferences in numerical order. Students submit their rank order list to the National Resident Matching Program (NRMP) website. At the same time, residency programs submit their lists of preferred students, also ranked numerically. Then the algorithm goes to work– churning thousands upon thousands of options, before the final results are determined.
Students could end up with their first, second, or even their tenth choice.
Or none at all.
I want to encourage anyone who is too afraid to try…to give it a shot.