By sheer happenstance, I was visiting a surgery program on the day after “the Match.” As all of you know, four days before the official release of the placement of every new surgical trainee, both the medical students involved and the programs affected are informed as to whether they have been matched. Students don’t know where they are going, just that the last rung of training is now in place. They have a job and a relatively secure future. Those who have not been matched and those programs that did not fill all their slots now enter into a scramble (officially called SOAP) to find students for the remaining slots. This year, the scramble occurred on a Wednesday and was orchestrated by a set of rules I’d never been privy to before.
On Tuesday night, all the programs in need of students for their open slots, whether categorical or preliminary, looked over the list of candidates remaining and made their choices. So did the students now hoping to find a place. At 10 a.m., the offers went out to students in the first round. Next, in precisely timed order, the programs found out who had accepted the offers. And, if slots were left over, the programs had a short time to put up another set of offers – and so on throughout the day until all the slots were gone. Like a game of musical chairs, the music finally stopped and the Match was over for the entering class of residents for 2017.
Dr. Hughes is clinical professor in the department of surgery and director of medical education at the Kansas University School of Medicine, Salina Campus, and coeditor of ACS Surgery News.