After the Match: A Place for Everyone

Sep 20, 2018

STUDENTS VICTORIA REEDMAN AND KAYLA SLISKOVICFor a brief moment in time, “Jack” didn’t think he’d find himself nearly three months into his internal medicine residency after being unmatched after the second round of the Canadian Resident Matching Service (CaRMS) matching process.

He was not alone.

Last year saw 115 Canadian medical graduates (CMGs) — including 19 others at U of T—unmatched following the 2018 CaRMS process. An additional 54 prior-year CMGs were also left without residency spots, bringing the total of unmatched medical graduates to 169 — the highest number ever. By 2021, the number of current-year unmatched students is predicted to climb to 141 while the number of prior-year unmatched medical graduates will swell to over 190, if no alternate course of action is available.

In the face of this growing, nation-wide issue, Office of Health Professions Student Affairs (OHPSA) is expanding its match-related services to better support students in the coming years through a multi-faceted approach.

“We’re here to help guide students at every point of the process,” says Professor Tony Pignatiello, Associate Dean, OHPSA. “From the time the online application system opens in the fall through to ensuring everyone has a destination after they finish the MD program in the spring, our doors are open to help find a place for everyone.”

In the immediate aftermath of the 2018 match, Pignatiello and his OHPSA colleagues ensured students had access to one-on-one career counselling and individualized plans to help them plan their next steps.

“It was a difficult time, but OHPSA called a meeting immediately after the match to provide a trajectory for the months ahead and to help unmatched students reorient themselves. This was quite helpful,” says Jack, who asked that his real name be withheld. He says communication in the days after the match was crucial.

Building on last year’s experience, OHPSA will be offering Matchannel, a webpage dedicated to real-time information for everything related to the current CaRMS cycle. They will also offer regular drop-in hours for match-related questions and establish new programming to help students obtain feedback on various application components like interview skills and CVs.

Last year’s burden was eased somewhat when the provincial government announced it would provide funding to offer residency positions to all 53 unmatched Ontario medical students. The Canadian Armed Forces also sought interested graduates for training opportunities in family medicine. The new spots provided destinations for those interested, while some students opted to extend their clerkship training by an additional year.

But, there still isn’t a permanent solution to the shortage of residency spots across Canada.

The problem was the focus of lobbying efforts by medical students from U of T and Ontario’s five other medical schools. And, senior leaders within the Faculty continue to advocate for coordinated, system-wide solutions.

“You deserve a residency spot,” said Professor Patricia Houston at a rally in April to where medical students urged Queen’s Park to find a long-term solution. “The number of unmatched medical students has tripled in the last three years. This is a system problem, it can’t be your problem. We have to find a solution and that is why we’re here today. I know that if we all work together collaboratively and creatively, we’ll find a way forward.”

While a solution is sought, Pignatiello and the OHPSA team are focusing their efforts on preparing and supporting students through the process.

“We will ensure students know their options, are prepared for the process ahead and are ready to put their best foot forward.”

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