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I remember the first time I tried to explain to my now-husband that I didn't have much say over where I/we might end up after medical school. After nine years of living in different cities, the thought of staying apart was unbearable, but also a real possibility if I didn't match in the NYC area. "Matching," or the formal process of getting your first post-med school job, is the medical community's way of fairly placing new docs into hospital training programs.

“The Match uses a hospital rank list and an applicant rank list in an attempt to give both parties as close to their top choices as possible.”

There were certainly days during 4th year when I was cursing the match and wishing we just had a “normal” job application process, which made me wonder…why don’t we?! Clearly I wasn’t the only person asking this question because in 2003 JAMA put out a great article explaining the history of the match. The system we know now was developed in the 1940s and 50s after hospitals and medical students were struggling with securing positions for/as interns. Major problems existed, including job offers being presented to 3rd year medical students, and some hospitals requiring students to make on-the-spot decisions about an internship offer. Hospitals would actually call them up and say, “Hey, we’re offering you a job, do you want it?” and then demand an answer or move on to the next candidate. Not good.

Fast-forward 50 years and we now have a formal, occasionally stressful, tech-saavy way of securing our first paychecks. The Match is a computer algorithm has been revised over the years to be a very fair system. It uses a hospital rank list and an applicant rank list in an attempt to give both parties as close to their top choices as possible. The easiest way I've learned to describe it is, "I rank them, they rank me, and we wait and see!

So, you’re about to submit your rank list and want to know if there is ANYTHING you can do to help you match your top program. The answer is simple: rank them #1! As for the rest of your list, here are three tips I used to make mine:

1. Rank programs as you interview. Your gut feeling is so important and you may not remember it two months after your interview date.

2. E-mail your top choice program. It’s a subtle little reminder to them that you’re still very interested.

3. As you go through each program on your list, ask yourself if you would rather be at that hospital or not match at all. Just remember, if it’s on your list, you could end up there!

Happy matching, everyone!

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