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They’re about to graduate from medical school with an MD to their names, but hundreds of students across the US learned this week that they haven’t advanced to the next step of training — and will not be allowed to practice medicine.

Most medical students found out Friday where they’re headed for their residency, where they’ll work alongside licensed doctors, gradually gaining more responsibility. But each year, a sizable group learns shortly before the official “Match Day” that they’ve been shut out of this training.


This year, for instance, more than 29,000 applicants got placed in a first-year residency through the main matching process. But 8,640 did not — a number that includes international applicants and aspiring physicians who graduated from medical schools in recent years, as well as current fourth-year students.

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  • Every unmatched doctor reading this…DO NOT GIVE UP. I know how demoralizing it can be to not match. I did not match in emergency medicine(EM) initially, I had to scramble. The scramble is now called SOAP. I was fortunate enough to match in EM, a competitive specialty. I was accepted into a brand new program. There were 8 of us. All of us did not match initially. An entire class of EM residents who did not match. The irony is that we ranged from academic scholars who did exceptional on their boards and obtained honors in their clinical rotations to those who did well but were not exceptional. We all graduated and are practicing physicians today. There is no rhyme or reason. There are good test takers who stink clinically and there poor test takers who are the best physicians one could ever see. Scores are suggestive, they are not indicative of who will be the best candidate. I’m living proof. I sucked at standardized exams, yet I managed to do well enough on my MCAT and USMLE exams. I’ve now been practicing nearly 24 years and have a spotless record. I’m board certified in EM twice over. And I still stink at standardized tests. I just have to study months in advance while colleagues only need a couple of weeks. You know your weakness and you address it. Mine is in test taking, it is not in clinical practice. That is where I excel. Believe in yourself and remember what it took for you to even get into med school. Everyone doesn’t make it, but you did. You fight for that residency. You make phone calls. You badger. Convince the program directors that you are what they want and the chance they take on you will not be wasted. Nothing worth having ever comes easy. DO NOT GIVE UP.

    There is hope. There is a bipartisan bill that has been introduced on the Hill: The Resident Physician Shortage Reduction Act of 2019. This will increase Medicare funding for residencies over the next 5 years. Push your representatives to get behind this bill. If this country is serious about increasing the number of physicians, they will support this bill as well. DO…NOT…GIVE…UP.

    • Stop taking foreign medical students. America is sacrificing our own people by giving preference to them for admission to American schools and then you allow foreign medical school graduates to compete against American students for residency positions. This has to stop.

  • These are compelling statistics, particularly considering the care with which medical students are chosen and taught. How do we compare: What are the corresponding statistics for other countries similar to this country–Canada, England, Ireland, France, Germany, Italy?

  • M.D. and a J.D. are just degrees, evidence of higher education. To practice medicine and law, you need to take the state exams. Good luck.
    Same for a CPA. You pass the state exam and then you need to be an indentured servant of a CPA firm for two years before you get your certificate.

    • I don’t expect the general public to have knowledge about what is going on in the medical system. In order to graduate from medical school, you have to pass three national exams. The USMLE step1, Step2 and step 2 CS. So exam is required to get the license but you need to do a residency as well. I hope that clears up some confusion.

  • I’m a medical student out of the caribean. I’m going to do orthopedic surgery. So if you ask me what to do if you don’t match I’ll tell you what to do: go teach, sell your soul to {insert name of massive chemical/pharmaceutical company}, find a plane to {insert name of country here} and live out the rest of your days as a pirate physician who illegally helps all, or simply do what you do best and stop dicking around and study your enzymes/diseases/drugs while you enjoy the company of yourself/your family/ your true friends(&if you don’t have any of these it’s alright; you have your soul, your imagination, plus your human Will; precious beyond all worth). Who cares what these people tell you, you’re going to do this physician thing for the rest of your life(Unless you’re total garbage and want nothing but $$mulla$$). That’s why you shouldn’t care what happens in the next 3 years. You’re good bro; you can do anything. By that definition you can also chill the mind right now for a sec
    So chill. Relax
    what will worrying do ?
    Elevate reactive oxygen species
    Look up the Wim Hof method & get ready to study or to earn money.
    I recommend applying at one of those massive pharmaceutical companies or others like dow(they do chemicals&what not). As a physician you’re well educated in public speaking & they’ll pay you big bucks to mislead generations of humans(dow). Pays good. I’d never do it, personally… but if you’re that desperate that you start feelin’ bummed out about debt… Also you could run for congress that pays GREAT. Listen, life is too precious & though money makes a difference you gotta remember that for all we know we only get just this one life. All I want to do is know this stuff. Once I know it they’ll never take it away & it doesn’t matter where I go to, I know what to do. You really care that much about sticking around where you grew up? Lock down the hatch and ether earn some money(dow) or study like mad(for future residency use torent to find $$$$$$$books$$$$$ for free instantly so you can study say orthopedic surgery when you’re in college). Sure, maybe what you memorize will be worthless, or it could be the single greatest thing you ever spent your time on(it’s a worthwhile gamble). First year caribean student straight b’s because I’m dumb, obviously. Do your thing & don’t listen to me. What do I know? Other than no winter beaches!!!

    • What amazing choice…to add some positivity and levity to the conversation.
      Everywhere you turn there is some more downer news, adding another speck of doubt where they need not be any.

  • Medical schools in the US should use alumni funds to sponsor preliminary positions for their unmatched graduates. I am a graduate from a US medical school and I earned the right to be called a doctor and to practice clinically. Osteopathic schools and organizations believe that all medical school graduates should have access to the training programs necessary for their success and, more importantly, to provide the best care for their patients. The AMA does not. The number of medical school graduates is at an all-time high. The increased output of medical school graduates and the paucity of primary care residency programs gives graduate physicians without licenses few options to work in the healthcare industry and no ability to clinically interact with patients. This is a known national issue but the solution is to hire more mid-level providers. In fact, doctors are being replaced with nurse practitioners or physicians assistants. I appreciate and support the work of Mid-level practitioners (MLPs) but knowledge gaps exist.

    • You are obviously extremely ignorant about what physician extenders are. They are not replacements for MDs. PA cannot replace MDs since they are under MDs supervision always and are there to extend the work of a physician and support the medical team.

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