More than 40,000 medical school seniors and graduates who applied for 29,000 available medical residency positions will learn their fate Friday at 1 p.m. Eastern time.
The event underscores physician workforce issues and how, while the number of medical school students is increasing, the number of graduate medical education positions where new doctors train has remained flat. A record 49,480 people applied for medical school in 2014, and enrollment reached an all-time high of 20,343.
But increasing enrollment in U.S. medical and osteopathic schools has not eased fears of a national doctor shortage because a main consequence of increasing domestic medical programs is that fewer foreign students get assigned to U.S. residency positions, producing little net gain.
Some have compared the annual Match Day event with the National Football League's draft day as individual high-stakes dramas are played out in large ceremonies where students simultaneously open their Match Day letters. The proceedings and excitement are now captured and almost instantaneously sent out into the world via social media.
“At the medical school ceremonies, students are given personalized letters showing where they matched,” Mona Signer, the National Resident Matching Program's CEO, said in a release. “It's an exciting moment because it validates their years of effort and defines their future careers as physicians. We consider it a privilege to share in this life-changing day.”
There were 975 U.S. applicants who were not assigned a residency position last year. Their names were put into a pool for a second-round draft by institutions with unfilled resident positions.
Dr. Atul Grover, chief public policy officer of the Association of American Medical Colleges, said 425 applicants remained unmatched. Many of those students find medical research work or go back to school for additional medical school courses or to seek graduate degrees in areas such as public health and then reapply for residency spots.
“It's creating a pressure that will be interesting to watch on Friday,” Grover said, adding that there were about 800 graduates who didn't match in 2013 along with the 425 who didn't match last year.