Nearly all rheumatology slots filled on Specialty Match Day


Once again, rheumatology filled almost every slot offered in the annual Specialty Match.

The specialty had 221 open positions to be filled, with only 3 left open when the 2017 results were announced on Dec. 6.

Dr. Anne Bass is the rheumatology fellowship program director at the Hospital for Special Surgery, New York

Dr. Anne Bass

The number of available positions was up from the 217 slots in 2016, with 7 positions unfilled last year. The number of applicants naming rheumatology as the preferred choice was virtually unchanged year over year, with 313 this year vs. 312 last year.

Of the 313 applicants who identified rheumatology as the preferred choice, 217 were matched to rheumatology, 3 were matched to a different specialty, and 93 did not match.

“Rheumatology did very, very well this year, even better than last year, although it was comparable,” Anne Bass, MD, rheumatology fellowship program director at the Hospital for Special Surgery, New York, said in an interview.

Dr. Bass, who also serves as chair of the American College of Rheumatology Committee on Rheumatology and Training and Workforce Issues, said she expects the remaining open slots to be filled.

“Usually what happens is something called the scramble, which is after the match is over, [the National Resident Matching Program] has a clearinghouse for fellows who haven’t matched and programs that still have slots,” she said in an interview. “It connects them together. I would guess the positions will either be filled or that they are positions that are really targeted, say, for research applicants and there wasn’t anybody appropriate for that position.”

Overall, though, Dr. Bass said that she was pleased with the results, as they reflect a healthy interest in rheumatology.

“You do want some excess because not all applicants are necessarily qualified, so you don’t want to have just the right amount of spots if you want to have the best people filling them,” she said, noting that this year, like last, there was around 100 applicants who listed rheumatology as their first choice that did not get assigned as fellowship, about double the number from a few years ago. “At the same time, with the anticipated workforce shortage, what this is telling us is if we created more fellowship slots, we have lots and lots of applicants to fill those slots.”

Dr. Bass said funding issues were the primary stumbling block to training more fellows. She also said more needs to be done to address geographic disparities, as these programs tend to be at major academic institutions in dense urban areas and many fellows practice at sights where they are trained, magnifying shortages in rural areas.

The similarities between last year’s rheumatology fellowship match results and this year’s are in line with what is happening in other specialties.

“Overall, the percentages of programs and positions filled were almost identical to last year,” Mona Singer, president and CEO of the National Resident Matching Program, said. “The same fellowships were competitive this year when compared to last year.”

Specialties filling more than 90% of positions included cardiovascular disease, endocrinology, gastroenterology, hematology/oncology, pulmonary/critical care, and rheumatology.

Ms. Singer noted that infectious diseases and nephrology “have implemented the ‘all-in policy,’ which requires any program participating in the match to place all positions. This was the first year infectious diseases used the policy, and there was a modest improvement in the number of positions filled. Nephrology was unchanged.”

Overall, 4,831 fellowships were available and 4,242 filled. The 87.8% of positions filled is a slight uptick over the 87.5% of positions filled in 2016. A total of 1,249 applicants did not match.

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