Let the Matches Begin!

Today is Match Day, the day when fourth-year medical students across the country learn their fate for the next three to five years, and possibly their lifetimes. It’s the day that the National Residency Matching Program (NRMP) announces the assignments of the students to their residency training programs that will develop the pluripotent medical student into a specialized professional. In short, it is one of the most important days in a medical student’s career.

The first match was in 1952 and paired graduating students into the 10,400 first-year residency slots available at the time. By 2009, that number had increased to 22,427. Even more dramatic was the rise in applicants, swelling from 6,000 in 1952 to 36,972 in 2009. Most of the increase in applicants is attributable to the increasing number of foreign-trained physicians, osteopathic students, and previous medical school graduates seeking retraining in another specialty.

U.S. seniors in allopathic medical schools seem to fare best in the match, with over 95% matching in a residency program in 2009. Osteopathic students and graduates match around 70% of the time. Prior U.S. grads and internationally-trained physicians only match 40-50% of the time. These numbers may be misleading, however, as every year there are a certain number of positions that are made available outside of the match and disproportionately affect international and osteopathic graduates, which may make their match rates appear artificially low. Even so, their increasing ranks coupled with the increasing number of U.S. allopathic medical students and the cap on the number of federally-funded residency programs make the situation for internationally-trained physicians especially challenging.

But for all applicants involved, Match Day is an exciting and nerve-wracking experience. So if you know a fourth-year medical student, be kind. They’re about to receive information that could change the course of their lives.


Results and Data – 2009 Main Residency Match [PDF]. NRMP. April 2009.

T. A. McNamee, MD

T. A. McNamee, MD, is an associate professor and internal medicine residency program director at Sanford School of Medicine of the University of South Dakota.
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