GUEST POST: So You Didn't Match (I didn't, initially)
Sunday, March 15, 2015
The match is an extremely important step along the journey of future health care providers. It's not uncommon for many anxieties and fears to surface as you await the results. What if I don't match? Does not matching mean there's something wrong with me or that I'll never get to practice medicine? I too faced many questions as I awaited my results back in March of 1999. Compounding these feelings was my determination to learn from whatever happened.
When I found out that I had not successfully matched, after a bit of soul searching I came to a few conclusions that helped me through the process. In case you're in the same position, I thought it would be helpful to share my lessons learned:
- Although I was clinically strong, I had sought very little guidance in developing the rest of my package. I was an okay test taker but I wasn't exceptional, and I did not even consider the things I was involved with pertinent to the application process because it was not related to medicine (or so I thought). I have since come to realize that my leadership in community and faith based organizations is an area I categorized as unrelated that should have been included on my application. My advice to others would be to seek assistance and feedback from others in determining what activities you're involved with on a meaningful level should be included.
- The fact that I failed to match on my first attempt did not mean that I was a failure. I had limited options based on my desired geographic location given my family situation. The programs I ranked were extremely competitive, and I simply wasn't alone in my desire to enter them. I would advise anyone in the same situation to consider opening the pool of options if this is at all a possibility.
- Things happen for a reason. Not matching was truly a humbling experience given all the accolades I received from well meaning colleagues about how likely I was to match at my first choice. I reapplied the following year and was offered a spot that had been vacated two weeks prior to my interview. I had a lot to learn in terms of why residency programs don't typically start in January, but that's another story!
I hope that my experiences can help any who are where I was in March 1999 to realize that failing to match is only the end of the world if you allow it to be.
For information about the National Residency Matching Program's Supplemental Offer and Acceptance Program (SOAP).
About the Expert
Sahira LongMedical Director, Children’s Health Center Anacostia
Sahira Long, MD, IBCLC, is a primary care pediatrician practicing and serving as medical director at the Children's Health Centers of Southeast and an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at George Washington University. She also serves as the President of the DC Breastfeeding Coalition. Dr. Long works tirelessly to bridge gaps in health care, through preventive care and breastfeeding education and advocacy. In 2011, she joined the US Surgeon General's Call to Action to eliminate barriers to breastfeeding in the workplace.