Moving Forward: From Unmatched Networking to Interview Season

Moving Forward: From Unmatched Networking to Interview Season

By Robert Martin, DO, MPH

My experience with the National Resident Matching Program (NRMP) Match last March was disappointing. Despite matching into a first-year transitional year program, I did not secure a position in my dream field of diagnostic radiology. The setback prompted me to write a blog for the American Board of Radiology, expressing gratitude for the era of virtual networking, which fosters greater outreach and relationship-building compared with traditional methods.

Robert Martin, DO, MPH
Robert Martin, DO, MPH

Radiology has become increasingly competitive in recent years. Both while writing the blog and afterward, I was preparing intensively to enhance my CV for reapplications. Throughout this period, I was fortunate to have Dr. Omer Awan’s invaluable mentorship, guiding me through obstacles and alleviating anxieties. This article reflects on my experiences after going unmatched and my journey through a new application cycle.

Recognizing my limitations, particularly my low STEP 1 score, I set realistic expectations and focused on highlighting my strengths. While I anticipated fewer invitations from highly academic programs, I remained optimistic that through diligence and dedication, I could overcome these challenges. Immediately after going unmatched, I initiated independent research on topics of personal interest, scouring Academic Radiology and The Journal of the American College of Radiology journals for inspiration. I collaborated with fellow unmatched applicants to enhance our collective applications through virtual networking and participation in conferences. This significantly expanded my academic portfolio, nearly tripling my posters, presentations, and publications in areas important to me; all things that can be listed to show engagement on the Electronic Residency Application Service (ERAS).

To further enhance my application, I sought honest input from my previous letter of recommendation writers regarding my personal statement and ERAS application. I also arranged additional shadowing opportunities during my downtime, despite the challenges of balancing family obligations and the demands of my transitional year program. These experiences reinforced my commitment to the field and helped strengthen my relationships with mentors.

The impact of going unmatched is often underestimated. It can affect a doctor’s confidence and demeanor, ultimately influencing their clinical acumen. During my intern year, I have remained resilient, actively seeking constructive criticism to improve as a physician. This has reinforced the importance of continuous learning, especially as the responsibilities of being a doctor begin to weigh heavily during internship. My partner’s support during this time was invaluable. Together, we navigated the stresses, with early mornings becoming routine as I worked on initiatives before attending to our infant twin daughters. Family and friends played a crucial role in my journey.

Reflecting on the application process, I noted significant differences from last year. The transition of ERAS emphasizing meaningful experiences encouraged genuine engagement rather than mere accumulation of credentials. This shift allowed me to delve deeper into why certain experiences were meaningful, showcasing my genuine engagement and their relevance to my application.

My applications have since been submitted and “Match Week” approaches again in less than two weeks. I now wait to hear if I matched with high hopes. In the end, I am so incredibly proud of the hard work I put into the process. I know because of the trials and tribulations, I have become a better physician and person because of it. Life is never easy, and worthwhile endeavors often pose challenges. However, perseverance can lead us to the right destination. Dr. Puneet Bhargava’s words during my initial setback resonated deeply with me: “Don’t let these minor setbacks dampen your spirit. They are not even a blip over the course of your medical career.”

Robert Martin, DO, MPH, is a recent graduate of Rowan-Virtua School of Osteopathic Medicine and current transitional year resident at Inspira Health – Mullica Hill. Dr. Martin has a passion for public health and sociodemographic factors related to radiology that started in middle school. His interests include furniture building, DIY projects, 3D printing, and spending time with his family. Follow him on X @Robert_Martin22

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