Monday, March 12, 2012

Comparing Residency Match Systems

This is a repost of an article by Ishani Ganguli, a 5th year medical student at Harvard Medical School, regarding how the U.S. residency match system compares to the UK system. 

On my weekend travels exploring Guatemala’s gorgeous natural offerings (Caves! Volcanoes! Giant lakes! Smaller pools!), I’ve gotten to meet a mix of international medical students on their own final-year electives.

Residency applications aren’t the first topic of conversation, but they come up eventually. Which is how I heard that this is a big two weeks for the Brits. On Monday Oct 11, students applying to foundation programmes (the British equivalent of residency) learned the questions they must answer for 60 percent of their ranking score. They had until today to submit their responses.
Later this year, they’ll be ranked within their medical school based solely on their graded 200-word answers to each of those five questions and class grades (40 percent). These ranks determine if they get their first, or 20th, choice of foundation programme.

The Brit students I’ve talked to bemoan the seemingly arbitrary quantification of their ability to wax eloquent and the paucity of data points on which they’re judged -- especially in a competitive year.

In the States, in contrast, our application files are quite a bit thicker -- in addition to grades and the personal statement, they include a curriculum vitae, three or four letters of recommendation, a summative Dean’s Letter, and (for the selected few) interviews.

I like that our British counterparts are forced to think of personal and observed examples of multi-disciplinary teamwork and cultural sensitivity -- topics that certainly merit attention when selecting doctors. Our personal statement prompts, in comparison, are quite vague.

But I must say that I’m comforted by US programs’ proclivity for information, both as an applicant and as a patient in our health system. Knowing more about the doctors we train, from multiple angles, can only help ensure that they (we) are both competent and genuine.

The article was originally posted here and is being reposted here with permission from the author. The post from Short White Coat, a blog about learning to be a doctor, which is a part of White Coat Notes on You can contact Ishani at

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