Kenneth V. Iserson, M.D., MBA
Professor Emeritus, The University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ

Listing your programs for the Match is the last step in obtaining a residency. You will list programs from your most desired (best for your needs) to the one that is least acceptable but where you would still be willing to go if matched. Programs list applicants in the same manner. Sounds simple, but complications can arise depending on your personal situation and the specialty involved.

A good way to decide which program best fits your needs is to use the “Must/Want” Analysis forms (Iserson’s Getting Into a Residency), completing one for each program with which you interview. This results in a numerical score based on your own desires in a training program. You then need only list the programs in order based on their scores to compile your rank order list.

The National Residency Matching Program is the system that most M.D. students use. Your dean’s office or, for IMGs, the Educational Commission on Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG), provides you with the necessary information. This Match takes place in March.

If you wish to coordinate your match results with another person so that they are geographically compatible, use the NRMP Couple’s Match. No one asks how or if the two of you are related. For those using this in 2015, about 92% of both partners matched through this system.

Osteopathic medical students can participate in the NRMP as Independent Applicants or through the American Osteopathic Association Intern/Resident Registration Program, held in February. Students with military commitments go through the Military Match (December); if they don’t match there, they generally go through the NRMP.

Ophthalmology goes through the San Francisco Match, releasing results in January for second-year positions beginning the following year. Use NRMP for a first-year (often Transitional) position. Urology also has its own system, with results posted in January. Urology programs have differing policies on applying for preliminary surgery training.

Preventive Medicine (General, Occupational, and Public Health), Medical Genetics, and Nuclear Medicine do not have matching programs and generally do not participate in the NRMP Match. Apply to these programs individually.

No matter which matching program you use, list enough programs to ensure that you match and get into the best possible program. Finally, recognize that there is no perfect program.


Based on: Iserson’s Getting Into a Residency: A Guide for Medical Students, 8th edition
Tucson, AZ: Galen Press, Ltd.


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