By Courtney Wing
Every March, medical students across the nation wake up a little more tachycardic than usual, but this time, it’s not from our energy drinks or an impending nine-hour exam. It’s the day the National Resident Matching Program shares our fate with us. For some of us, the news contains the best words we’ve ever read. For others, the heart-pounding excitement of Match week is quickly transformed after reading the 10 most dreaded words of every medical student’s career: “We are sorry, you did not match to any position.” After receiving such solemn news, where it feels like the wind was just knocked out of you, the first step is to breathe.
In the middle of reckoning with a million emotions, including confusion, shame, and even anger, you’re soon flooded with well-intentioned thoughts from family, friends, and administrators contacting you through the many modes of communication we have in 2023. The notifications flooded my phone screen: “Did you match?” I didn’t on the Monday of Match Week, and neither did many other applicants. I went through the Supplemental Offer and Acceptance Program (SOAP) and matched at the University of North Carolina three days later.
The 2023 diagnostic radiology (DR) match will produce an alarming number of unmatched applicants, with a record of 2,054 applicants for 1,176 DR spots. Some program directors are calling this year the most competitive they’ve seen in the application process. Interest in DR has skyrocketed in the past three years. While there is not a single answer for this, there is speculation that a growing interest inf teleradiology, post-pandemic shifts away from the front lines of medicine, and maybe even growing fatigue over a failing physician compensation model may be to blame. I would love to hear your thoughts.
Regardless, if you’re like me, you’ve been interested in radiology since before medical school, back when those “AI will take over radiology” tales were told. Just because you’ve applied at an unluckily competitive time doesn’t mean you should deny yourself of your dream! Take the warning of reapplying with a grain of salt, just as I took those threats of AI. Believe it or not, going unmatched isn’t a death sentence, but rather an opportunity. As I stated in a SOAP interview, “When one door closes, another opens.” I sincerely believe this. View this unmatched cycle as an opportunity to show an entire additional year of dedication to the field of radiology and trailblaze a path for unmatched applicants to follow. Do some reflecting, reach out to mentors and programs you’ve interviewed with this cycle for specific feedback, make a game plan for how you will address your weaknesses, and move forward.
It’s important to realize that the next year of reapplication will test your ego, stamina, and most important, belief in yourself. If medical school has taught me anything, sometimes you must be your own advocate and reapplying is no exception. You’re going to spend the rest of your hopefully long career dedicated to patients anyway – why not take this year to invest in yourself?
Just as mental health has become increasingly destigmatized in medicine (about time!), so should going unmatched. It’s happened to more physicians than you realize, but for some reason, our egos keep us from sharing our stories. The only way people will feel empowered to share is if YOU do first! If I’ve inspired you to do so on Twitter like I did, feel free to add #shareyourstory. I’d love to keep up with the great things you’ll accomplish in the next year!
I’m rooting for you.
Courtney is a fourth-year medical student at the University of Central Florida in Orlando. She is passionate about pediatric radiology, DEI, and radiology advocacy. Her hobbies include tennis, SCUBA, and running with her dog, Aspen. You can find her on Twitter @CourtneyWing9