Medicine From The Trenches

Experiences from medical school, residency and beyond.

(Re-post) The Supplemental Offer and Acceptance Program (SOAP) Process

I am re-posting a previous post because Monday of Match Week is coming up. People may need to learn about the Supplemental Offer and Acceptance Program (SOAP) process very quickly. It is not anticipated that there will be huge numbers of positions available in this program but one does need to know how the program works and how to make it work for you. Good luck to all of those who match and those who are going through the SOAP process this year. It’s stressful but it’s exciting to move forward with the next career steps in medicine.

Introduction

In previous years, a process known as “The Scramble” existed for:

  • People who were unmatched on the Monday of Match Week
  • Unfilled residency programs
  • People who matched to an advanced position but not a first-year residency position.

The Scramble was also utilized as a primary residency application process for people who didn’t want to go though the Electronic Residency Application Service (ERAS) who often submitted their application materials via fax to programs who didn’t fill (from the list provided on the Monday of Match Week) or even contacted those programs via phone or e-mail. The Scramble does not exist any longer and programs who participate in the Match cannot accept applications outside ERAS. In short, the SOAP process is a different entity with hazards and plenty of opportunities for mistakes on the part of applicants.

SOAP is NOT “The Scramble”

Programs that participated in the Match are no longer allowed to interact with applicants outside of ERAS as this would be a violation of the Match participation agreement. This means that all applications to unfilled programs (those programs that are on the unfilled list) have to be submitted via ERAS. For programs, this means that e-mails, fax machines and phone lines are not jammed with people attempting to submit application materials. Frequently in previous years, many applicants (IMGs, FMGs in particular) could pay for a mass fax service to fax applications to every program on the unfilled list as soon as the Scramble opened which often jammed machines. Most residency programs were only interested in filling with desirable applicants who may not have matched (by mistake usually) and were not able to screen for those applicants because their fax machines, e-mails and phone lines were jammed.

SOAP should not be your primary residency application

If you are seeking a residency position in the United States, you need to meet the deadlines for ERAS with your application materials. In short, you need to submit your application materials (to your medical school if you are an American grad or to ERAS if your are an FMG/IMG) and participate in the regular Match.  If you are an applicant with problems such as failures on any of the USMLE Steps or failures in medical school coursework, do not make the mistake of believing that unfilled programs are desperate and will take a chance on you rather than remain unfilled. First, there are far more applicants in the regular match than ever before. Many people who will find themselves unmatched either overestimated their competitiveness for a program or were just below the cutoff for a program to rank. If a program interviewed you but you didn’t make the cutoff for them or you didn’t rank them at all, you have a better shot at securing a position in that program through SOAP than an applicant who didn’t interview at all. Programs would rather take an applicant that they have seen and interviewed rather than just a person on paper (which is why trying to use the SOAP rather than the Match is a poor strategy).

You are limited to an absolute maximum of 45 programs in the SOAP

In the SOAP, your maximum is 45 programs. You can apply to 30 programs during the first cycle (Monday) and 10 programs during the second cycle (Wednesday) and 5 programs on the third cycle (Thursday).  Applications do not roll over so that if you don’t get a match by the third day the start of the second cycle, you are likely not going to find much out there. There are more applicants who will be unmatched (because there are more people participating) thus the positions will go quickly because programs can review applications to chose the most desirable candidates with the SOAP system.

If you have problems that prevented you from getting any interviews in the regular Match season or you didn’t get enough interviews to find a Match, then you are going to be less likely to find a position in the SOAP. This means that you won’t have a position for residency. If this happens (you know if you have academic or USMLE/COMLEX problems), have a contingency plan in place. This means that rather than sitting around wishing, hoping and praying while your classmates and colleagues are going on interviews, you need to be looking at alternatives to residency that will enable you to earn a living and alternatives that will enhance your chances of getting a position in the next Match.

Strategies to enhance your chances of getting a PGY-1 position

If you know that you are a weaker candidate (failure on USMLE/COMLEX Step I, failure in medical school coursework, dismissal from medical school and readmission), then don’t apply to the more competitive specialties. Don’t apply to university-based specialties in the lesser competitive specialties and apply to more rather than less programs. If you have academic problems, you are likely not going to match in Radiology, Opthalmology, Dermatology, Emergency Medicine, Radiation Oncology or Anesthesiology. You are likely not going to match in university-based programs in Surgery or any of the surgical specialties, Psychiatry, Pathology, OB-GYN,Neurology, Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Family Medicine or Internal Medicine. In short, community-based programs in Family Medicine and Internal Medicine may be your best options.Do not believe that if there are unfilled positions in programs that are university-based or competitive, that you are going to snag one of those positions in the SOAP. A majority of those programs would rather go unfilled than fill with a less desirable applicant (in spite of what you hear, those programs are not desperate enough to take any applicant just to fill).

If you are an IMG/FMG, you have to meet the requirements for application which means that your USMLE Scores likely will have to be higher than those for American grads and you can’t have any USMLE failures. There are also cutoffs in terms of year of graduation from medical school for many programs. In short, you need to look at the application requirements for any residency program that you apply to and make sure that you are eligible (better yet, that you exceed) those application requirements.

The best resource for estimating your competitiveness for a particular specialty is to look at the previous years  National Residency Matching Program ( NRMP) reports for those specialties. You can look at the characteristics for matched and unmatched individuals to see where you fit. With a greater number of medical school graduates (most American medical schools increased their class sizes) and the number of residency positions staying static, there are fewer positions out there to be filled. There will be fewer position in the SOAP and the competition for those positions will be greater. Since the competition in the SOAP is greater, it is best to avoid having to use that system all together if possible.

If you know that you are a weaker candidate, apply for preliminary (not transitional) positions in either Internal Medicine or Surgery. You will stand a better chance of getting a preliminary position (more available) and you will have a job where you can demonstrate your clinical abilities for one year before you re-enter the Match for the next year. If you do a good job in your preliminary year, score high on the in-training exams and perform at a high level clinically, you may be able to secure a categorical second-year position in the same program where you do your preliminary position or you may position yourself to become more competitive for another specialty at another institution. The upside to this strategy is that you will not be relying on the SOAP as a primary means of residency application but the downside is that you have to be ready to perform extremely well in your preliminary position without exception. In short, getting into a preliminary position can be a huge asset if you are ready to work hard and prove yourself but can be a huge liability if you are not ready for clinical residency and perform poorly.

Things that generally DO NOT enhance your chances of matching

Doing graduate degree work if you do not match will generally not help your chances of matching. If you can complete a graduate degree (such as an MPH), you may enhance your chances but most graduate degree programs close their application submission dates before you know whether or not you have matched. If you anticipate that you are not going to match, then apply for graduate school long before Match Week or you will find that you can’t get into graduate school. Additionally, you need to complete your degree before the clinical year starts after the next Match. This means that you have to be able to ensure on your next ERAS application, that you will complete all of your degree requirements by the start of your PGY-1 year. Again, if you know that you have a high change of not matching, get your graduate school application done ahead of time or better year, delay entering the match and just apply for graduate school outright (can’t do a Ph.D) but plan on spending no more than one year away from clinical medicine.

Hanging out and “schmoozing” with residency attendings if you are not in their residency program is generally a waste of time. Doing additional observerships (IMG/FMG) generally will not help you if you have done enough before you applied. Working in “research” will generally not help you unless you already have an advanced degree (MS or Ph.D)  or you are able to produce a major paper or article for a national or international peer-reviewed journal. When I say produce, I mean first author not just run a few experiments  or enter data. If you can get yourself on a major clinical research project where you are actually gathering some clinical experience, you can use this to enhance yourself for residency but you face stiff competition for these types of projects and you need an unrestricted license to practice medicine (difficult to obtain without a passing score on USMLE Step 3 + 1-2 years of residency training).

Summary

Making sure that you match requires a bit of strategy and planning for everyone but for some applicants it will be a difficult process.

  • People who have academic and USMLE/COMLEX problems will have even more problems getting into a residency
  • It is important NOT to rely on the SOAP as a primary means to apply to residency programs because you put yourself at a distinct disadvantage in terms of the number of programs that you can apply
  • You need to make sure that you are even eligible for the SOAP in that you have to have applied to the Main Residency Match (at least one program) and are fully or partially unmatched.

Learn as much about the process as possible as soon as possible. The decisions that you make in the residency application process can profoundly affect your career in medicine. Educate yourself about all aspects of the process as there is little room for error.

11 March, 2017 Posted by | difficulty in medical school, Match Day, residency, scramble | , | 1 Comment

(Re-post) The Supplemental Offer and Acceptance Program (SOAP) Process

I am re-posting a previous post because Monday of Match Week is coming up. People may need to learn about the Supplemental Offer and Acceptance Program (SOAP) process very quickly. It is not anticipated that there will be huge numbers of positions available in this program but one does need to know how the program works and how to make it work for you. Good luck to all of those who match and those who are going through the SOAP process this year. It’s stressful but it’s exciting to move forward with the next career steps in medicine.

Introduction

In previous years, a process known as “The Scramble” existed for:

  • People who were unmatched on the Monday of Match Week
  • Unfilled residency programs
  • People who matched to an advanced position but not a first-year residency position.

The Scramble was also utilized as a primary residency application process for people who didn’t want to go though the Electronic Residency Application Service (ERAS) who often submitted their application materials via fax to programs who didn’t fill (from the list provided on the Monday of Match Week) or even contacted those programs via phone or e-mail. The Scramble does not exist any longer and programs who participate in the Match cannot accept applications outside ERAS. In short, the SOAP process is a different entity with hazards and plenty of opportunities for mistakes on the part of applicants.

SOAP is NOT “The Scramble”

Programs that participated in the Match are no longer allowed to interact with applicants outside of ERAS as this would be a violation of the Match participation agreement. This means that all applications to unfilled programs (those programs that are on the unfilled list) have to be submitted via ERAS. For programs, this means that e-mails, fax machines and phone lines are not jammed with people attempting to submit application materials. Frequently in previous years, many applicants (IMGs, FMGs in particular) could pay for a mass fax service to fax applications to every program on the unfilled list as soon as the Scramble opened which often jammed machines. Most residency programs were only interested in filling with desirable applicants who may not have matched (by mistake usually) and were not able to screen for those applicants because their fax machines, e-mails and phone lines were jammed.

SOAP should not be your primary residency application

If you are seeking a residency position in the United States, you need to meet the deadlines for ERAS with your application materials. In short, you need to submit your application materials (to your medical school if you are an American grad or to ERAS if your are an FMG/IMG) and participate in the regular Match.  If you are an applicant with problems such as failures on any of the USMLE Steps or failures in medical school coursework, do not make the mistake of believing that unfilled programs are desperate and will take a chance on you rather than remain unfilled. First, there are far more applicants in the regular match than ever before. Many people who will find themselves unmatched either overestimated their competitiveness for a program or were just below the cutoff for a program to rank. If a program interviewed you but you didn’t make the cutoff for them or you didn’t rank them at all, you have a better shot at securing a position in that program through SOAP than an applicant who didn’t interview at all. Programs would rather take an applicant that they have seen and interviewed rather than just a person on paper (which is why trying to use the SOAP rather than the Match is a poor strategy).

You are limited to an absolute maximum of 45 programs in the SOAP

In the SOAP, your maximum is 45 programs. You can apply to 30 programs during the first cycle (Monday) and 10 programs during the second cycle (Wednesday) and 5 programs on the third cycle (Thursday).  Applications do not roll over so that if you don’t get a match by the third day the start of the second cycle, you are likely not going to find much out there. There are more applicants who will be unmatched (because there are more people participating) thus the positions will go quickly because programs can review applications to chose the most desirable candidates with the SOAP system.

If you have problems that prevented you from getting any interviews in the regular Match season or you didn’t get enough interviews to find a Match, then you are going to be less likely to find a position in the SOAP. This means that you won’t have a position for residency. If this happens (you know if you have academic or USMLE/COMLEX problems), have a contingency plan in place. This means that rather than sitting around wishing, hoping and praying while your classmates and colleagues are going on interviews, you need to be looking at alternatives to residency that will enable you to earn a living and alternatives that will enhance your chances of getting a position in the next Match.

Strategies to enhance your chances of getting a PGY-1 position

If you know that you are a weaker candidate (failure on USMLE/COMLEX Step I, failure in medical school coursework, dismissal from medical school and readmission), then don’t apply to the more competitive specialties. Don’t apply to university-based specialties in the lesser competitive specialties and apply to more rather than less programs. If you have academic problems, you are likely not going to match in Radiology, Opthalmology, Dermatology, Emergency Medicine, Radiation Oncology or Anesthesiology. You are likely not going to match in university-based programs in Surgery or any of the surgical specialties, Psychiatry, Pathology, OB-GYN,Neurology, Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Family Medicine or Internal Medicine. In short, community-based programs in Family Medicine and Internal Medicine may be your best options.Do not believe that if there are unfilled positions in programs that are university-based or competitive, that you are going to snag one of those positions in the SOAP. A majority of those programs would rather go unfilled than fill with a less desirable applicant (in spite of what you hear, those programs are not desperate enough to take any applicant just to fill).

If you are an IMG/FMG, you have to meet the requirements for application which means that your USMLE Scores likely will have to be higher than those for American grads and you can’t have any USMLE failures. There are also cutoffs in terms of year of graduation from medical school for many programs. In short, you need to look at the application requirements for any residency program that you apply to and make sure that you are eligible (better yet, that you exceed) those application requirements.

The best resource for estimating your competitiveness for a particular specialty is to look at the previous years  National Residency Matching Program ( NRMP) reports for those specialties. You can look at the characteristics for matched and unmatched individuals to see where you fit. With a greater number of medical school graduates (most American medical schools increased their class sizes) and the number of residency positions staying static, there are fewer positions out there to be filled. There will be fewer position in the SOAP and the competition for those positions will be greater. Since the competition in the SOAP is greater, it is best to avoid having to use that system all together if possible.

If you know that you are a weaker candidate, apply for preliminary (not transitional) positions in either Internal Medicine or Surgery. You will stand a better chance of getting a preliminary position (more available) and you will have a job where you can demonstrate your clinical abilities for one year before you re-enter the Match for the next year. If you do a good job in your preliminary year, score high on the in-training exams and perform at a high level clinically, you may be able to secure a categorical second-year position in the same program where you do your preliminary position or you may position yourself to become more competitive for another specialty at another institution. The upside to this strategy is that you will not be relying on the SOAP as a primary means of residency application but the downside is that you have to be ready to perform extremely well in your preliminary position without exception. In short, getting into a preliminary position can be a huge asset if you are ready to work hard and prove yourself but can be a huge liability if you are not ready for clinical residency and perform poorly.

Things that generally DO NOT enhance your chances of matching

Doing graduate degree work if you do not match will generally not help your chances of matching. If you can complete a graduate degree (such as an MPH), you may enhance your chances but most graduate degree programs close their application submission dates before you know whether or not you have matched. If you anticipate that you are not going to match, then apply for graduate school long before Match Week or you will find that you can’t get into graduate school. Additionally, you need to complete your degree before the clinical year starts after the next Match. This means that you have to be able to ensure on your next ERAS application, that you will complete all of your degree requirements by the start of your PGY-1 year. Again, if you know that you have a high change of not matching, get your graduate school application done ahead of time or better year, delay entering the match and just apply for graduate school outright (can’t do a Ph.D) but plan on spending no more than one year away from clinical medicine.

Hanging out and “schmoozing” with residency attendings if you are not in their residency program is generally a waste of time. Doing additional observerships (IMG/FMG) generally will not help you if you have done enough before you applied. Working in “research” will generally not help you unless you already have an advanced degree (MS or Ph.D)  or you are able to produce a major paper or article for a national or international peer-reviewed journal. When I say produce, I mean first author not just run a few experiments  or enter data. If you can get yourself on a major clinical research project where you are actually gathering some clinical experience, you can use this to enhance yourself for residency but you face stiff competition for these types of projects and you need an unrestricted license to practice medicine (difficult to obtain without a passing score on USMLE Step 3 + 1-2 years of residency training).

Summary

Making sure that you match requires a bit of strategy and planning for everyone but for some applicants it will be a difficult process.

  • People who have academic and USMLE/COMLEX problems will have even more problems getting into a residency
  • It is important NOT to rely on the SOAP as a primary means to apply to residency programs because you put yourself at a distinct disadvantage in terms of the number of programs that you can apply
  • You need to make sure that you are even eligible for the SOAP in that you have to have applied to the Main Residency Match (at least one program) and are fully or partially unmatched.

Learn as much about the process as possible as soon as possible. The decisions that you make in the residency application process can profoundly affect your career in medicine. Educate yourself about all aspects of the process as there is little room for error.

14 March, 2015 Posted by | applying for Residency, Match Day, medical school | | 4 Comments

The Post-Match “Supplemental Offer & Acceptance Program (SOAP)

Introduction

In previous years, a process known as “The Scramble” existed for:

  • People who were unmatched on the Monday of Match Week
  • Unfilled residency programs
  • People who matched to an advanced position but not a first-year residency position.

The Scramble was also utilized as a primary residency application process for people who didn’t want to go though the Electronic Residency Application Service (ERAS) who often submitted their application materials via fax to programs who didn’t fill (from the list provided on the Monday of Match Week) or even contacted those programs via phone or e-mail. The Scramble does not exist any longer and programs who participate in the Match cannot accept applications outside ERAS. In short, the SOAP process is a different entity with hazards and plenty of opportunities for mistakes on the part of applicants.

SOAP is NOT “The Scramble”

Programs that participated in the Match are no longer allowed to interact with applicants outside of ERAS as this would be a violation of the Match participation agreement. This means that all applications to unfilled programs (those programs that are on the unfilled list) have to be submitted via ERAS. For programs, this means that e-mails, fax machines and phone lines are not jammed with people attempting to submit application materials. Frequently in previous years, many applicants (IMGs, FMGs in particular) could pay for a mass fax service to fax applications to every program on the unfilled list as soon as the Scramble opened which often jammed machines. Most residency programs were only interested in filling with desirable applicants who may not have matched (by mistake usually) and were not able to screen for those applicants because their fax machines, e-mails and phone lines were jammed.

SOAP should not be your primary residency application

If you are seeking a residency position in the United States, you need to meet the deadlines for ERAS with your application materials. In short, you need to submit your application materials (to your medical school if you are an American grad or to ERAS if your are an FMG/IMG) and participate in the regular Match.  If you are an applicant with problems such as failures on any of the USMLE Steps or failures in medical school coursework, do not make the mistake of believing that unfilled programs are desperate and will take a chance on you rather than remain unfilled. First, there are far more applicants in the regular match than ever before. Many people who will find themselves unmatched either overestimated their competitiveness for a program or were just below the cutoff for a program to rank. If a program interviewed you but you didn’t make the cutoff for them or you didn’t rank them at all, you have a better shot at securing a position in that program through SOAP than an applicant who didn’t interview at all. Programs would rather take an applicant that they have seen and interviewed rather than just a person on paper (which is why trying to use the SOAP rather than the Match is a poor strategy).

You are limited to an absolute maximum of 45 programs in the SOAP

In the SOAP, your maximum is 45 programs. You can apply to 30 programs during the first cycle (Monday) and 10 programs during the second cycle (Wednesday) and 5 programs on the third cycle (Thursday).  Applications do not roll over so that if you don’t get a match by the third day the start of the second cycle, you are likely not going to find much out there. There are more applicants who will be unmatched (because there are more people participating) thus the positions will go quickly because programs can review applications to chose the most desirable candidates with the SOAP system.

If you have problems that prevented you from getting any interviews in the regular Match season or you didn’t get enough interviews to find a Match, then you are going to be less likely to find a position in the SOAP. This means that you won’t have a position for residency. If this happens (you know if you have academic or USMLE/COMLEX problems), have a contingency plan in place. This means that rather than sitting around wishing, hoping and praying while your classmates and colleagues are going on interviews, you need to be looking at alternatives to residency that will enable you to earn a living and alternatives that will enhance your chances of getting a position in the next Match.

Strategies to enhance your chances of getting a PGY-1 position

If you know that you are a weaker candidate (failure on USMLE/COMLEX Step I, failure in medical school coursework, dismissal from medical school and readmission), then don’t apply to the more competitive specialties. Don’t apply to university-based specialties in the lesser competitive specialties and apply to more rather than less programs. If you have academic problems, you are likely not going to match in Radiology, Opthalmology, Dermatology, Emergency Medicine, Radiation Oncology or Anesthesiology. You are likely not going to match in university-based programs in Surgery or any of the surgical specialties, Psychiatry, Pathology, OB-GYN,Neurology, Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Family Medicine or Internal Medicine. In short, community-based programs in Family Medicine and Internal Medicine may be your best options.Do not believe that if there are unfilled positions in programs that are university-based or competitive, that you are going to snag one of those positions in the SOAP. A majority of those programs would rather go unfilled than fill with a less desirable applicant (in spite of what you hear, those programs are not desperate enough to take any applicant just to fill).

If you are an IMG/FMG, you have to meet the requirements for application which means that your USMLE Scores likely will have to be higher than those for American grads and you can’t have any USMLE failures. There are also cutoffs in terms of year of graduation from medical school for many programs. In short, you need to look at the application requirements for any residency program that you apply to and make sure that you are eligible (better yet, that you exceed) those application requirements.

The best resource for estimating your competitiveness for a particular specialty is to look at the previous years  National Residency Matching Program ( NRMP) reports for those specialties. You can look at the characteristics for matched and unmatched individuals to see where you fit. With a greater number of medical school graduates (most American medical schools increased their class sizes) and the number of residency positions staying static, there are fewer positions out there to be filled. There will be fewer position in the SOAP and the competition for those positions will be greater. Since the competition in the SOAP is greater, it is best to avoid having to use that system all together if possible.

If you know that you are a weaker candidate, apply for preliminary (not transitional) positions in either Internal Medicine or Surgery. You will stand a better chance of getting a preliminary position (more available) and you will have a job where you can demonstrate your clinical abilities for one year before you re-enter the Match for the next year. If you do a good job in your preliminary year, score high on the in-training exams and perform at a high level clinically, you may be able to secure a categorical second-year position in the same program where you do your preliminary position or you may position yourself to become more competitive for another specialty at another institution. The upside to this strategy is that you will not be relying on the SOAP as a primary means of residency application but the downside is that you have to be ready to perform extremely well in your preliminary position without exception. In short, getting into a preliminary position can be a huge asset if you are ready to work hard and prove yourself but can be a huge liability if you are not ready for clinical residency and perform poorly.

Things that generally DO NOT enhance your chances of matching

Doing graduate degree work if you do not match will generally not help your chances of matching. If you can complete a graduate degree (such as an MPH), you may enhance your chances but most graduate degree programs close their application submission dates before you know whether or not you have matched. If you anticipate that you are not going to match, then apply for graduate school long before Match Week or you will find that you can’t get into graduate school. Additionally, you need to complete your degree before the clinical year starts after the next Match. This means that you have to be able to ensure on your next ERAS application, that you will complete all of your degree requirements by the start of your PGY-1 year. Again, if you know that you have a high change of not matching, get your graduate school application done ahead of time or better year, delay entering the match and just apply for graduate school outright (can’t do a Ph.D) but plan on spending no more than one year away from clinical medicine.

Hanging out and “schmoozing” with residency attendings if you are not in their residency program is generally a waste of time. Doing additional observerships (IMG/FMG) generally will not help you if you have done enough before you applied. Working in “research” will generally not help you unless you already have an advanced degree (MS or Ph.D)  or you are able to produce a major paper or article for a national or international peer-reviewed journal. When I say produce, I mean first author not just run a few experiments  or enter data. If you can get yourself on a major clinical research project where you are actually gathering some clinical experience, you can use this to enhance yourself for residency but you face stiff competition for these types of projects and you need an unrestricted license to practice medicine (difficult to obtain without a passing score on USMLE Step 3 + 1-2 years of residency training).

Summary

Making sure that you match requires a bit of strategy and planning for everyone but for some applicants it will be a difficult process.

  • People who have academic and USMLE/COMLEX problems will have even more problems getting into a residency
  • It is important NOT to rely on the SOAP as a primary means to apply to residency programs because you put yourself at a distinct disadvantage in terms of the number of programs that you can apply
  • You need to make sure that you are even eligible for the SOAP in that you have to have applied to the Main Residency Match (at least one program) and are fully or partially unmatched.

Learn as much about the process as possible as soon as possible. The decisions that you make in the residency application process can profoundly affect your career in medicine. Educate yourself about all aspects of the process as there is little room for error.

29 November, 2013 Posted by | applying for Residency, Match Day, residency, scramble, USMLE | 28 Comments

MATCH-2013 (If you didn’t match)

NRMP-2013MatchThere is a new process for securing a PGY-1 (or PGY-2) position in this year’s Match if you didn’t match outright. Please research the process and make sure that you get your application materials submitted correctly so that you can find a position should you receive a letter that states that you didn’t match or didn’t match to an advanced position. Contact your medical school and follow the instructions that come with your e-mail should you not match.

If you are still unmatched after the SOAP ends, you can submit an application through “Find A Resident” which is where programs that have emergency openings will search for residents that still remain unmatched. Sometimes illness or emergencies prevent a matched resident from starting their program thus there will be a late opening. These slots are usually preliminary but can turn into categorical slots should the resident hired turn out to perform at a very high level academically and clinically. There are not going to be very many openings through “Find A Resident” but there may be some out there. If you have an application on that site, a program director would be able to contact you directly.

For more information on the SOAP process see this link: <http://wp.me/p4t7z-6l&gt;

11 March, 2013 Posted by | applying for Residency, Match Day, scramble | , | 84 Comments

Matching and Choosing a Specialty

This is likely to be a multi-part posting but I thought that I needed to start to address this topic at some point. Speciality choice can be quite difficult for many medical students because some schools never quite spend much time on how to choose a speciality. This choice can be a source of life-long misery or it can become like a marriage with deep and passionate love in the early years only to be replaced with a wonderful familiarity that is both surprising and satisfying at the same time.

The wrong way to choose a speciality is based on what you will believe will be potential income. While it’s generally true that surgical specialties are better paying than primary care specialities, this is not always the case especially if you find that you just don’t enjoy surgery and surgical procedures after a while. Anesthesia has become very popular in the sense that people feel that this speciality pays well and had less hours than surgery but a description of Anesthesia as “hours of boredom punctuated with seconds of sheer terror” can be pretty accurate at times. Many people find that this aspect of anesthesia far outweighs any monetary rewards.

Another wrong way to choose a specialty is by how wonderful your medical school experience was in that particular rotation. While you may have loved your residents and interns, you may have not loved the patients that you were treating. This can make for a miserable residency experience and an even more miserable practice experience.

As you rotate through your required third-year clerkships, you may want to pay close attention to the types of patient that each speciality treats. Do you enjoy a long-term relationship with your patient and handling of chronic problems? If this is the case, then family medicine and internal medicine may be of interest to you. Do you enjoy treating only female patients? This brings to mind OB-Gyn but you may find yourself drawn to internal medicine with a track in women’s health.

Do you enjoy procedures? You may want to investigate the procedure-heavy specialties such as anesthesia, radiology, orthopedic surgery, ophthalmology and invasive cardiology. You might also place any of the surgical specialties in this category. Finally, do you enjoy the outpatient treatment of patients? This might lead you to emergency medicine as EM spend most of their practice time dealing with outpatient issues with a bit of trauma thrown in. Dermatology is also a specialty that has far more outpatient care than inpatient care. Psychiatry can also go into that category.

Pathology tends to appeal to individuals who love to study tissues and medical problems. Pathologists do not treat inpatients and pathologists perform few procedures other than those pathologists who subspecialize in tissue banking and transfusion medicine. If study and evaluation of tissues and medical problems are appealing to you, look into pathology.

Another way NOT to choose a speciality is by what your classmates have to say about a particular specialty. Don’t be drawn into the “the smartest people in medical school go into derm so derm is the best specialty”. This might not be the case for you if you don’t enjoy the scope of practice of the dermatologist. While dermatology is a competitive specialty, you may not enjoy much about this speciality other than the look on your classmates faces when you announce that you want to pursue Derm.

The telly shows such as “House”, “ER” and “Scrubs” have also tended to glamorize certain specialties. Do keep in mind that telly watching is for entertainment purposes. There is little reality to any of these shows no matter how compelling the characters and patient situations. These shows are written by people who are generally not in medicine with input for practitioners. These shows are written with entertainment factor built into them. Most of actual medical practice is not entertaining.

As you study through medical school years one and two, you are creating the foundation upon which you will enter your third year. It is during that third year that you will be exposed to different specialties and their patients. It’s good to keep an open mind during third year. Do not feel pressured to decide upon anything if you don’t have an idea of what type of specialty might be of interest.

I can tell you from experience, that I generally liked every rotation that I encountered during third year. Basically, I enjoy the practice of medicine and patient interaction. I saw plenty of very interesting pathology and patients on OB-Gyn but I didn’t particularly find this specialty appealing other than how I could learn to differentiate pelvic problems from abdominal problems in the course of seeing patients.

I loved my Psychiatry rotation and found the expertise of my preceptor far greater than any clinician that I have dealt with to date. I developed a very strong appreciation and high degree of respect for that multitude of psychiatrists out there that just do a good job taking care of their patients. While psychiatry was not for me, it was an awesome rotation that brought a depth of understanding as to how many medical and surgical problems might present with psychiatric symptoms.

As you go through first and second year, take the time to join one of two specialty exploration/interest groups at your medical school. By joining these groups, you ca expose yourself to residents and attendings that can assist with your exploration of their specialty. It is participation in these types of specialty interest groups that can allow you to keep your focus when you feel that you just can’t look at another histology slide or review another article for biochemistry.

Also keep in mind that certain specialties do require a high level of academic achievement in medical school. I have often spoken to medical students who have struggled with a course or two in medical school who feel like doors have closed for them because they won’t be competitive for a dermatology residency. My first inclination when I speak to theses folks is to find out if they actually understand the scope and practice of dermatology. If they do have this understanding, are there other less-competitive specialties that will satisfy many of their need? In the vast majority of cases, the answer is yes.

Finally, as a close to this little essay which is like a part one of this issue, if you know that you are not particularly competitive for a speciality that you feel you can’t live without, spend some quality time with the program director/department chairman of that specialty at your school. Try to figure out if you have some options that can increase your competitiveness for said specialty such as research. There might even be a possibility of finding a program or two in that specialty that might be in a less desirable location and therefor less competitive.

Don’t listen to anyone except yourself when it comes to your needs in terms of the practice of medicine. In the end, it doesn’t matter what you classmates say about the specialty that interests you. It’s how you feel about what you are interested in practicing and your suitability for said specialty. It’s also about your attentiveness to your academics/boards too.

If you had a slow first year, try to have a strong second year. If you had a weak second year, then try to have a very strong third year. In short, you can decide at any point, that you are going to upgrade your work ethic and performance.

25 March, 2008 Posted by | graduation, Match Day, medical specialty selection | 23 Comments

As Match Day Approaches…

The residency interviews are over and you have submitted your Rank List to the NRMP. If you have been fortunate as I was, you have been guided along this process by more senior medical students and/or a good faculty advisor. In any event, at this point in the process, that is less than a week to the point where you find out if you have matched or not, you are nervous but excited; depressed but hopeful; and a couple of hundred other emotions that fit the situation of having your immediate future in the hands of a computer.

During your third year of medical school, as you moved through your clinical rotations, you should have been collecting your letters of recommendation from your clinical preceptors. At my medical school, these letters were sent to the Dean of Students for inclusion in your file and made available for you to designate when you filled out your ERAS application. (ERAS is Electronic Residency Application Service). It was up to you to ask for the letters and up to you to make sure that the letters were in your file by the appropriate deadlines.

I had the added advantage of making sure that my personal statement, CV and letters were done very early. I had to apply for one of my away-rotations which had an early deadline. This rotation application needed the exact same content as my residency application so I was done long before I needed to be done. My application for this away rotation netted me a full-scholarship to cover travel costs and housing costs at my rotation location. During third year, investigate some possible away rotations that have scholarships attached. This does cut down on expenses during travel season.

As Match Day approaches, there is a tendancy to listen to all kinds of rumors that abound. Some people will try to say that you need 15 interviews in order to insure a match. If you are a marginal applicant to a competitive speciality, you might need 50 and still not match. If you are limited by geography and have a solid relationship established with a program, you actually only need one interview especially if you are a strong candidate for that program.

If you do not match, the Monday before Match Day, you will receive an e-mail that lets you know that you did not match. If you find that you are the recipient of this e-mail, you should contact your Dean’s office immediately and find out what services are going to be availble for you during the Scramble.

The Scramble allows unmatched applicants to apply to any unfilled positions in any programs across the United States. In order to receive the list, you have to be unmatched, and in order to make sure that you application is ready to be faxed or e-mailed to programs with openings, you need to have all of your materials. You can print out a copy of your ERAS CV but you will need copies of your Dean’s Letter and LORs which you should be able to get at your Dean’s office. In addition, you need to have copies of your USMLE score reports and you need a copy of your personal statement.

A great advantage of being in your Deans office is that there are usually plenty of phone lines and fax machines available for you. If a program has an opening, they usually notify Dean’s offices and your Dean can speak directly to a program director on your behalf. In any event, scramble from your Dean’s office if at all possible. You can also find plenty of great classmates to help you man the fax machine and speak to program directors for you. (I helped a couple of classmates scramble and thus I learned loads about the process). Another advantage of being in the Deans office is that the Dean gets the unfilled list 30 minutes before it is available to the unmatched candidates. This gives you a 30-minute head start on getting your materials loaded in the fax machine and ready to go at nooon.

If you matched, you have to wait another three days to find out where you have matched. This can be more unnerving than finding finding out that you didn’t match. On Match Day, many people have so much emotion pent up that they end up crying or depressed. I can tell you that as soon as you find out where you are going, you need to start looking for a place to live unless you have interviewed at places in the same location as your medical school and know that you don’t have to move.

My medical school held a Long White Coat Ceremony on Match Day. On that day, we all received letters that told us where we would be going. At noon, we could open those letters and thus, we waited until everyone had letter in hand. We also received a Long White Coat with our names and the specialty that we had matched into. For some folks, they didn’t know the specialty so they ended up with a nice long white coat that had their name and M.D. In any event, it was a great ceremony. We all open champagne and celebrated for the rest of the day. The first and second year students got the afternoon off so that they could participate in out fun too. I must say, that every year, I always enjoyed Match Day but I enjoyed it more when I was the “Matchee”.

Match Day is a time of high emotions and expectations. It’s far more charged than graduation day. On graduation day, everyone is just happy to have the whole situation over and done with. On Match Day, the anticipation is very high and we really do not know what to expect. The whole Match algorithm makes little sense and it is difficult to know why you ended up in the position that you ended up in. It’s great to get your top choice but ask anyone who has scrambled and they will tell you that it is good to get any match at all. If you planned on going into a competitive specialty and found that you did not match, it can be pretty unsettling to end up in a preliminary position in a town or city that you did not plan to move to with the prospect of going back into the Match next year.

I have to say that going into the Match for fellowship is much better than residency. If I don’t match into a fellowship, then I know for sure that I at least will be able to practice my specialty. It’s a small victory but it’s a victory.

7 March, 2007 Posted by | Match Day, medical school, residency | 2 Comments