Letters to the Editor, Opinions

Setting the record straight on the residency match

By and
Sunday, April 9, 2017

To the Editor:

Thank you for your recent article about Match Day, the day where 115 fourth-year medical students at the Alpert Medical School were selected for post-graduation residency positions (“Med students find success on Match Day,” Apr. 4). However, as members of the Med School community in different capacities — a recent alum and a faculty member who was quoted in the article — we found parts of the article to be misleading and worthy of a more nuanced discussion.

Firstly, the accompanying graphic distorts and oversimplifies match rates at Brown. Not all students pursue residency positions after graduation, and a 94 percent versus 97 percent rate (last year’s match rate) in this context is statistically insignificant. The graph artificially projecting 97 percent to be over twice as high as 94 percent is particularly misleading and appears to insinuate a trend where none exists.

More importantly, the article very selectively quotes one of us by focusing on match rates for competitive specialties as the only indicator of a “good medical school.” No other indicators of medical school “success” are mentioned in the article, though many such indicators exist that we had originally discussed — for example, the proportion of medical students who matched at an outstanding training program, a top hospital or one of their top choices. As you can imagine, medical schools are difficult to objectively rank (similar to universities) because of the variety of intertwining factors that affect a school’s perceived quality. What is very clear, however, is that judging a medical school’s match only by the presence of competitive specialties is bad for applicants and bad for our health care system.

For medical school applicants, focusing on ophthalmology or orthopedic surgery match rates neglects to take into account the very personal factors that go into a student’s decision to pursue residencies in these specialties versus others — not to mention the fact that matching to a top hospital in a “non-competitive specialty” is, in reality, an equally worthy accomplishment.

For the health care system at large, a distorted focus on narrow subspecialties plays a looming role in our ever pricier but ever more fragmented model of health care delivery. Primary care providers are the centerpiece of our future health care system, and the Med School’s admirable primary care match rate — as well as our innovative Primary Care / Population Health MD-ScM program — are, in our opinion, far more important factors in making our medical school “good.”

We are happy to speak with The Herald or interested readers to correct other misconceptions, for example the article’s incorrect description of internal medicine requirements for radiation oncology residencies. While the Match’s computer-generated algorithm itself may be difficult to understand, our reasons to commend the Med School’s performance are not.

Rahul Banerjee ’10 MD’14

Senior Admitting Resident, Department of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania

Glenn A. Tung

Professor of Diagnostic Imaging and Associate Dean for Clinical Affairs