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Travis Hughes had been assured by both mentors and peers that he was a front-runner for a super-competitive dermatology residency: He had a double degree from Harvard University, experience as a clinical scientist at a health tech startup, and a CV with nearly 40 publications and four patents. Still, during Match Week in March, he failed to land a residency slot, along with 7.1% of fourth-year medical students in the U.S.

While many in his position were upset, Hughes said he was relieved. His part-time job at a startup had nudged him toward industry. The push from the Match was all he needed to set out on this new path. Now, he could forgo the long hours and low pay of residency for a comfortable lifestyle in industry.


From the start of medical school, Hughes had dreamed of eventually founding a biotech company that could sell low-cost drugs, devices, and diagnostics, while he practiced medicine to inform his industry work. His vision to transition from academic medicine to industry put him in good company. Of 2,969 new recipients of a Ph.D. in the life sciences surveyed in 2020, 43% reported that they had committed to a job in industry or business — a 10-point jump from 2015, according to the Survey of Earned Doctorates, administered by the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics. Only 37% reported they would continue down the academic path — a 9-point decrease from 2015.

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