‘Your destiny is revealed to you:’ Match Day 2020 amid COVID-19
With rising infection rates in the United States constituting a national emergency, COVID-19 continues to affect all facets of life through institutional shutdowns, numerous lockdowns and the cancellation of many milestone events. Of the many event cancellations impacting the medical community, Match Day 2020 challenged medical students and leaders to explore a new landscape for celebration, shedding light on the bigger picture of what it means to work in the medical profession amid largescale pandemics.
Founded in 1952, The National Residency Matching Program aims to provide a process for matching fourth year medical students with U.S residency programs. In continued growth, the program reported the 2020 appointment year will be the largest on record with 12,042 active applicants competing for 11,545 fellowship positions offered in 4,946 programs.
“Match Day represents a remarkable day in the culmination of the medical journey,” William Levine, MD, Frank E. Stinchfield professor and chair in the department of orthopedic surgery at New York Presbyterian and Columbia University Irving Medical Center, said to Healio while reflecting back on his own Match Day. “The people outside of medicine don't understand a lot about what happens in medicine, but they certainly don't understand the importance of Match Day. You don’t know where you’re going to actually be spending the next 5 or 6 years of your life in most situations until you open that envelope and you’ve been working so hard to achieve that goal. ... To some extent, your destiny is revealed to you.”
While a huge accomplishment for the students, this day is highly anticipated in representing an ultimate celebration of efforts for mentors as well.
“We put our heart and soul into recruitment, with hundreds of hours spent reviewing applications and interviewing applicants,” Amy Oxentenko, MD, FACP, FACG, AGAF, residency program director, associate chair and professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic Alix School of Medicine, told Healio. “When you are able to finally see who you have matched into your program, ...that sets the climate for the next 3 years of your training program.”
While the cancellation of traditional celebrations has been disappointing to many, the rapid evolution of the public health landscape has proven the importance of making sacrifices in the face of this pandemic, Columbia medical student Casey Wright told Healio.
“I still continue to look forward to finding out where I matched,” fellow Columbia medical student Peter Noback added. “The ability to plan the future is something I have taken for granted. It [the COVID-19 outbreak] has taught how quickly the reality we once knew can evaporate and be replaced.”
To maintain the celebratory spirit while social distancing, institutions opted to take their celebrations online in hopes that #VirtualMatchDay and #DistanceMatch would encourage students to embrace sharing their accomplishments despite the change in tradition.
“The reason we all went into medicine was to help people and it’s easy to lose sight of that when you get on your own,” Levine concluded. “Even though experts are obviously learning on the fly when you have a new viral pandemic, it teaches the medical students that the gift and privilege we have of being doctors, is incredible.”
Regardless of how, where or with whom students are celebrating, COVID-19 cannot take away from their exceptional accomplishments and the many momentous milestones in their medical careers to come. – by Kate Burba
Disclosures: Levine reports he is the editor in chief of Journal of the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons and the president of the American Shoulder and Elbow Surgeons. Oxentenko, Wright and Noback have no relevant financial disclosures to report.