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More Medical School Seniors Choose Residencies in Competitive, "Lifestyle" Specialties

Match Day Ceremonies Held Across the Nation

Washington, D.C., March 16, 2006—At noon today, 15,000 upcoming graduates of U.S. medical schools will participate in "Match Day" and learn where they will spend their years of residency training. According to the National Resident Matching Program (NRMP), which matches the medical students to residency positions, many of these students are choosing to pursue careers in highly competitive medical specialties, such as surgery, dermatology and anesthesiology.

This year, 26,715 applicants participated in "The Match;" 15,008 of them were U.S. medical school seniors. (Other applicants include: physicians who have already graduated, osteopathic students and physicians, and graduates of non-U.S. medical schools.)

Conducted annually by the NRMP, the Match uses a computer algorithm to align the preferences of applicants with the preferences of residency programs, in order to fill the available training positions at U.S. teaching hospitals. The Match has a very high success rate—93.7 percent of U.S. medical school seniors matched to a first-year residency position. Of those students, 84.6 percent matched to one of their top three program choices.

Match results are an indicator of career interests among graduating medical school students. Several popular specialties are highly competitive:

  • Almost 22 percent of the available first-year residency positions are in internal medicine programs—the largest specialty in the Match. These positions are competitive: 98 percent were filled, 56 percent of those were filled by U.S. medical school seniors (the highest number in three years).
  • Otolaryngology (ear/nose/throat specialty) positions are new to the Match program this year. 98 percent of those positions were filled, 92 percent of those were filled by U.S. medical school seniors.
  • All but one of the 1,047 general surgery positions were filled through the Match, more than 83 percent of those were filled by U.S. medical school seniors.
  • Since 2003, interest in obstetrics/gynecology residency positions has been increasing. 98 percent of these positions were filled this year, 72 percent by U.S. medical school seniors (up from 68 percent three years ago).

In recent years there has been increased interest in the "lifestyle" specialties—those considered to have more reasonable work hours and demands:

  • All first-year residency positions in dermatology were filled through this year's Match, with U.S. medical school seniors taking more than 93 percent of those spots.
  • In anesthesiology, 97 percent of the available positions were filled. More than 80 percent of those were filled by U.S. seniors, the highest number in several years.

Interest in some primary care specialties has decreased in recent years. Mixed results from this year's Match data show possible shifts in that trend:

  • Although there were 50 fewer family practice positions available through the Match this year (continuing a 5-year decline), 85 percent of those positions were filled—up from 82 percent last year. While only 41 percent of those were filled by U.S. medical school seniors, this represents a slight increase (of 6 more individuals) from last year.
  • 96.5 percent of available pediatric residency positions were filled through the Match, down slightly from 97.4 percent in 2005. Almost 73 percent of those were filled by U.S. medical school seniors, a decline from 74 percent last year.

Although Match Day officially occurs today, the Match is actually a week-long process. On Monday of this week, NRMP applicants were informed whether they had been matched to a residency program of their choice, although the name of that program was not revealed. On Tuesday, in what is known as "the scramble," the locations of remaining unfilled residency programs were released to unmatched applicants, who then contacted the programs about the open positions. Today, matched applicants learn where they will spend at least their first year of residency training. For U.S. medical school seniors, this news will be delivered and celebrated during Match Day ceremonies at the nation's 125 U.S. medical schools. The Match was established in 1952, at the request of medical students, to provide a fair and impartial transition from medical school to residency.

"It's exciting when you consider that on Match Day, 15,000 medical students across the country are finding out their residency locations at the same time," said NRMP President Susan Kline, M.D. "And for physicians who have already been through the Match, it's thrilling to attend these ceremonies and re-live the excitement of our own Match experience."

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The National Resident Matching Program (NRMP) is a private, not-for-profit organization established in 1952, at the request of medical students, to provide an orderly and fair mechanism to match the preferences of applicants to U.S. residency positions with the preferences of residency program directors for those applicants.