|On Friday, March 16, 2012, fourth-year School of Medicine students will receive envelopes telling them where they will begin practicing medicine, like the one pictured here on Match Day 2011.|
Match Day, when soon-to-graduate medical students find out where they will begin their careers as physicians, occurs on the same day, at the same time, at every medical school in the country. But beginning this year, one aspect of the event will be slightly different. Instead of the third Thursday of March, Match Day 2012 will take place on the third Friday of March, which this year is Friday, March 16.
Remaining the same for the UMMS Match Day experience will be the time and place: 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the Faculty Conference Room. Also remaining the same will be the excitement, the throng of family and friends, the joyous shouts, the atmosphere of celebration—and the significance of Match Day as one of the most important days in the life of an aspiring physician.
Holding Match Day on Friday instead of Thursday accommodates a procedural change by the National Residency Matching Program (NRMP) that was made to help students who do not achieve a residency match through the initial round made by the NRMP via computer. The culmination of a lengthy application and ranking process, the initial round takes both students’ preferred programs and the programs’ preferred candidates into account.
In previous years, students who did not achieve a match through this initial, orderly process, were matched through the so-called “scramble,” which forced applicants to make often life-changing residency decisions within minutes. This year, the NRMP’s new Supplemental Offer and Acceptance Program (SOAP) replaces the scramble with something more organized and well-managed. The new process, which begins the Monday before Match Day, incorporates an additional day for applicants to consider their options and apply to unfilled positions.
“SOAP is a much more humane way than the scramble was to deal with unmatched students,” said Mai-Lan Rogoff, MD, associate dean for student affairs, whose office oversees most aspects of the match process at UMMS, and who has emceed the event since 1994. “We’ve been lucky that in the past, all of our students who wanted a clinical position for the following year have obtained one, either through the match or the scramble.”
While Match Day logistics and traditions vary from school to school, the NRMP mandates that envelopes naming the residency programs where recipients will begin their careers as physicians cannot be opened before the clock strikes noon. At UMMS, students and their families and friends begin gathering in the Faculty Conference Room around 11 a.m., along with other members of the UMMS and UMass Memorial community. As noon approaches, the chancellor, the dean of the School of Medicine and Dr. Rogoff speak while everyone watches the clock.
Finally noon arrives, and Rogoff begins picking envelopes randomly from a basket and calling students up, one at a time, to receive them. Continuing a favorite UMMS tradition, each student drops a dollar in a kitty, which is given to the last student called, who will usually spend it on a class celebration. Recent classes have opted to wait until the last envelope is handed out before opening the envelopes as a group. When every student finally tears into them simultaneously, pandemonium—mostly joyous—ensues. Said Rogoff, “Although it’s less formal, many students say that Match Day is as meaningful as Commencement.”