By Aileen Larson and Grace DeHoff
Every spring, fourth year medical students anxiously await “Match Day”. Students in both allopathic (MD) and osteopathic (DO) programs submit a rank list of their favorite residency programs and order them according to their preference. Residency programs also create a list of their top students and rank them accordingly. For allopathic medical students, Match Day is typically the third Friday in March. Every February, osteopathic medical students also await their fate in a similar match algorithm. This year the DO Match Day is held on February 6th, 2017.
As an osteopathic student, there are many choices to make when applying for residency programs. While the MD match is open to both MD and DO students, the DO match is exclusively for DO students and organized under the American Osteopathic Association (AOA) National Matching Services Inc. A student may decide to attempt the match only in allopathic programs, in which case they withdraw their application from the AOA match and continue with the National Resident Matching Program (NRMP) in March. However, if they decide to stay with the AOA match and end up matching in a program in February, their application is automatically withdrawn from the NRMP match. If an osteopathic student does not match in February, they can decide to “scramble” for an unfilled AOA residency spot or wait for the NRMP match results in March.
Osteopathic medical students undergo a similar application process for the AOA residency programs. Many programs require osteopathic medical students to spend two to four weeks at a residency program “auditioning” to be considered for an interview. Osteopathic medical students must travel around the country for four to five months in the fall of their 4th year completing an audition rotation at programs of their choice. Expenses related to these rotations are typically paid out of pocket by the medical student. An “audition” rotation is very similar to a “sub-internship” rotation in regards to student responsibilities and there are minimal differences between the two.
Recently, the ACGME decided that all residency programs (allopathic and osteopathic residencies) will be accredited under the Single GME Accreditation System (SAS) by 2020. Unfortunately, some AOA residency programs are closing their doors on osteopathic students this year due to limited resources to meet the new accreditation requirements. Many of these programs are either in smaller communities, rural hospitals or are smaller surgical subspecialty programs.
As an osteopathic student, navigating these changes presents a unique set of challenges. Those AOA residency programs that are 5+ year programs, including all general surgery and other surgical specialty programs, had to apply for a pre-accreditation application by January 1st 2017 to participate in this year’s match. Those that did not apply will not be accepting osteopathic students this year. Osteopathic students also need to understand that they are taking a leap of faith when selecting a program that has not received full accreditation yet but only a pre-accreditation approval.
There are many important decisions that medical students face when deciding a specialty. For those students who choose an osteopathic path from the beginning and now facing new obstacles with the single accreditation system, I wanted to give encouragement to osteopathic students and show our support for them in the upcoming match in February.
Aileen Larson is a fourth year osteopathic medical student at Pacific Northwest University in Yakima, WA and currently finishing her rotations in Portland, OR. She is pursuing otolaryngology and facial plastic surgery and participating in the AOA Match. She is on the Student Osteopathic Surgical Association National Board and is the West Representative on the Association of Women Surgeons National Medical Student Committee. In her free time, she likes to practice hot yoga, snowboard and spend time with her husband and her two dogs.
Grace DeHoff is a third year osteopathic medical student at Pacific Northwest University and is interested in pursuing a career in Neurosurgery. She is a Denver, CO native but currently lives in Boise, ID with her husband and one-year-old son. She is the Diversity Chair with the National Medical Student Committee for the Association of Women Surgeons. In her free time, she enjoys running and has completed several half marathons and relay races.
Our blog is a forum for our members to speak, and as such, statements made here represent the opinions of the author and are not necessarily the opinion of the Association of Women Surgeons.