A letter to MD 2017 Students on the Eve of Match Day
On the eve of match day 2017, I reflect on my own challenges with decision-making related to choice of discipline. I am so old that I did a rotating internship so had more time to decide. Although I started medical school thinking that I would be a family doctor just like my father was, in second year I was certain I wanted to be a psychiatrist, and I ended up in clerkship realizing during my very last rotation that in fact my calling was paediatrics. Back then, the news came to me by snail mail.
For most of you, the months and years of planning and preparing will reach a climax on March 1, at noon, Eastern Standard Time. You have planned your surroundings carefully for the moment when you are informed, by the computer screen in front of you, of your fate regarding your residency position and most importantly the discipline of medicine for which you will be trained. The vast majority of you will be pleased. You will be relieved and you'll be excited to share your news with all those around you.
But as you congregate with your classmates this evening for your pre-match activities, please keep in mind that for a few of you, tomorrow will not roll out exactly as planned. For a small number, the match journey will not be over; a mismatch will have occurred between your wishes and a match system that did not meet your needs. If this is you - please remember that this is happening to other students in your class, to several students across the country, and has happened to hundreds of students before you. Remember that your fellow student colleagues, your friends and family are there for you, and know that this could have happened to anyone. Also remember that your school’s student affairs and undergrad offices are there to support and help you unconditionally over the next few weeks.
Some of you will have matched but will be surprised by the results of your match. It's important to keep an open mind about your discipline, about living in a city that you hadn't really thought you would live in, and potentially about being further from your loved ones that you had anticipated. As an undergrad dean at the University of Ottawa from 2005 to 2011, I was always very impressed with how many students actually took this unexpected challenge in stride with a positive attitude and ended up being extremely pleased with their residency experience. In retrospect many felt that their match had happened for a reason and, eventually, they were really glad it did.
The process of career decision making and the match into residency is a work in progress in Canada. The Association of Faculties of Medicine of Canada (AFMC) is proud to have developed The AFMC Resident Matching (ARM) Committee, whose membership includes deans, postgrad deans, undergrad deans, student affairs deans, as well as representatives from the Canadian Federation of Medical Students (CFMS), the Fédération médicale étudiante du Québec (FMEQ), Resident Doctors of Canada, and the Fédération des médecins résidents du Québec (FMRQ) as well as CaRMS, who work on issues to improve the resident match process. Example agenda items include better understanding match results, decreasing the number of unmatched Canadian medical graduates, implementing the best practice in selection policies, and managing inappropriate behaviours of resident program selection committees. I look forward to receiving any feedback you may have that I could bring to the committee. You may also present your requests to your CFMS or FMEQ representatives.
I hope all of your dreams come true tomorrow. Please be kind to yourself and those around you whose dreams have had to change course or have not yet come true. Remember that what defines you is how you are as a physician, how you care for your patients, and how you care for yourself, your colleagues and your family. During this most important moment in your lives, always keep that in mind.