Medical students take to social media to normalize no match
On Monday, Kaitlyn Thomas, a 25-year-old fourth-year student at Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine in Pennsylvania, was devastated after learning she hadn’t been matched with a residency training program.
She immediately turned her attention to the Supplemental Offer and Acceptance Program (SOAP), desperately hoping to get a vacancy. While spending up to 12 hours a day on the phone being interviewed by potential programs and drinking protein shakes instead of eating real meals, she made time to connect with social media.
Thomas is one of a growing number of candidates taking to social media to help normalize the lack of a match.
“I really think it can happen to anyone,” she said. “I don’t have a red flag on my candidacy.”
The thought that she wouldn’t be able to do what she’s spent her whole life trying to do was “devastating,” Thomas added. But in an interview with MedPage today on Wednesday, she remained hopeful that a SOAP offer would materialize.
She credited the support and positive words she received on social media, including Twitter, for helping her through a difficult time. And she felt compelled to do the same for others by sharing her own experience with a situation that can have an incredible impact on the mental health of those who have gone unmatched in recent years.
“We have to ask ourselves if people are going to get hurt because they didn’t get a residency training position,” Thomas noted. Overall, she fears the matching process has become a broken system.
Standardize the process
Mahad Minhas, MD, who now works in the Department of Radiology at the University of Texas at San Antonio, knows all too well how difficult a difficult process can be.
After not matching in 2020, Minhas accepted an offer for a preliminary year of general surgery at the University of Michigan. After he also failed to match the 2021 cycle, he was able to secure a residency spot after shifting his specialty to radiology via SOAP.
Talk with MedPage today About the support people are showing others online in the 2022 cycle, Minhas noted that the thousands of applicants who go unmatched each year is a growing problem.
He, too, offered advice and support on social media to those who didn’t match, including retweeting what many #unmatched shared publicly.
“I did not have a match in ENT, for the 2nd year in a row. I did everything according to the rules of the art and “exceeded all expectations”, but I still found myself without a match. I am devastated but I appreciate any advice.” tweeted Duaa Kuziez, graduated from Saint Louis University Faculty of Medicine in 2021.
Another candidate, Margaret Elizabeth, wrote“So happy to see all the positive news on my newsfeed. Unfortunately I haven’t corresponded, but that’s not the end for me. I’m going to be an orthopedic surgeon, I just have to take a different path from the one I had planned.”
There’s definitely been more support via #MedTwitter, Minhas said. “I think it’s because it’s becoming more and more normal to ask for help.”
It can be “so embarrassing” and “so shameful”, he added, when “after all your hard work, you get nothing. It’s expensive to go through this, and it’s also very expensive.”
Not enough spotlights?
“I think overall there are not enough places for the number of medical students,” Thomas noted, adding that student loans are looming.
“I think it’s really essential that if we continue to increase the number of medical students … we have to increase the training places that we have available,” she argued. “Otherwise it will continue to happen.”
It’s important to highlight the issue in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, Minhas said. “We obviously lack doctors. And despite the lack of doctors, why are all these doctors unmatched?”
It’s ‘baffling’ to see candidates with ‘incredible CVs’ get nothing, he added, pointing out that some candidates who could help meet the need for more doctors end up turning to other jobs. outside the field of medicine.
In the meantime, Thomas said she took to heart the words of support she received via social media, noting that she believed more mental health resources and guidance on navigating the process would be helpful. helpful to candidates.
She described the SOAP process, which begins right after many applicants find out they don’t match, as incredibly overwhelming. It’s hard “to know if you have to make a decision tomorrow, what it’s going to be,” she said.
Thomas pushed through the process in hopes of receiving an offer, even moving his specialty from general surgery to emergency medicine, which had a relatively high number of vacancies. While some contestants aren’t comfortable making the change, she said she believes it was the right move for her.
After reflecting on the initial application process, Thomas said she wasn’t sure some of the programs really heard her when she expressed a strong interest in politics and health advocacy. Fortunately, with her SOAP interviews, the response was different, she added.
On Thursday, Thomas tweeted: “I am so happy, so relieved. Very exited.” She said MedPage today that she accepted a SOAP offer for an emergency medicine position in Pennsylvania, at a hospital where she had done the majority of her clinical rotations for the past 2 years.
Amanda D’Ambrosio contributed reporting to this story.