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Medical Schools, Students, Teaching Hospitals Celebrate Biggest "Match Day" on Record

Washington, D.C., March 19, 2009—At noon today, nearly 30,000 applicants, including more than 15,000 U.S. medical school seniors, learned where they will spend the next three to seven years of residency training. For U.S. medical school seniors, the news is revealed in "Match Day" ceremonies across the country.

Participants According to the National Residency Match Program (NRMP), this was the largest Match in history: 29,890 applicants participated 1,153 more than last year and 4,500 more than participated five years ago. More than half the participants in this year's Match were U.S. medical school seniors (15,638), 400 more than in 2008.

"We saw an across the board increase in Match applicants this year, particularly among U.S. medical school seniors," said Mona M. Signer, executive director of the NRMP. "This is likely the result of medical school expansion across the nation in anticipation of a future physician shortage-existing medical schools have increased their class sizes and new medical schools are in development."

Other participants in the 2009 Match included:

  • 10,874 graduates of international medical schools—an increase of 570 participants from last year
  • 2,015 students and graduates of osteopathic (D.O. degree-granting) schools—an increase of 145 from 2008, and
  • 1,222 physicians who previously graduated from medical (M.D. degree-granting) schools—a slight increase of 38 participants from 2008.

How the Match Works Conducted annually by the NRMP, the Match uses a computer algorithm, designed to produce favorable results for applicants, that aligns the preferences of applicants with the preferences of residency programs in order to fill the thousands of training positions available at U.S. teaching hospitals.

Positions Participants vied for one of the 22,427 first-year residency positions available through the Match this year—the most ever offered by the NRMP; 187 more first-year positions than were available last year and 1,235 more than were available five years ago. More than 95 percent (21,340) of the first-year positions were filled during this Match. The remaining positions are filled through a process known as "the Scramble," occurring this week.

Match Rate Ninety-three percent of U.S. medical school seniors matched to a residency program this year; 82 percent of these students matched to one of their top three choices. Among all other types of participants, 47 percent matched to a residency program; 81 percent of these individuals matched to one of their top three program choices.

Specialty Trends Match results can be an indicator of career interests among U.S. medical school seniors. Among the notable trends this year:

  • Dermatology, neurological surgery, orthopaedic surgery, and otolaryngology were the most competitive specialties for medical school seniors. This is the first year in which neurological surgery positions were available through the Match; all 191 available positions were filled.
  • There were 101 fewer family medicine positions in the Match this year. Of the 91 percent of these positions that were filled, 42 percent were filled by U.S. medical school seniors (down slightly from nearly 44 percent last year).
  • One-fifth of the first-year residency positions available through the Match were internal medicine positions. Some of these residents intend to practice as internists and some intend to seek further training in subspecialties like cardiology and gastroenterology. The 4,922 internal medicine positions available this year represent a slight increase from last year (up from 4,858). Of the nearly 99 percent of these positions that were filled, 53.5 percent were filled by U.S. medical school seniors (a slight decrease from the 55 percent in 2008).

Couples in the Match There were 788 couples in the Match this year, an all-time high. Participants who enter the Match as a couple agree to have their rank order lists of preferred residency programs be linked to each other to ensure that they match to programs within the same geographic area, for instance. This year, 706 of these couples both matched to their respective residency program preferences. A couple is defined by the NRMP as any two applicants—regardless of the nature of their relationship—who participate in the Match as partners.

Using the Match Effectively Since 2006, the NRMP has provided decision-support data for applicants in the form of research reports and analyses. These reports give applicants the information they need to make better decisions when entering the Match and thus contribute to more successful Match outcomes. Medical schools also use these reports in conjunction with advising services to help students make informed decisions when choosing a specialty and a residency program.

Match Week Schedule The Match is a week-long process that began on Monday, March 16, when 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. Today, those matched applicants learned where they will spend at least their first year of residency training. For U.S. medical school seniors, this news is delivered and celebrated during Match Day ceremonies at medical schools across the country.

Applicants who learned Monday that they did not match to a residency position participate in "the Scramble," which began on Tuesday. During this process, the locations of remaining unfilled residency positions are released to unmatched applicants, who then have the opportunity to contact the programs directly to express interest in the open positions. Following the Match this year, there were 1,087 unfilled first-year residency positions available to participants in the Scramble.

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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.