Strike a match: Report helps students gauge themselves, rank programs
Posted last month, the Osteopathic GME Match Report—For the 2011 Match illuminates trends that can help fourth-year osteopathic medical students create their rank order lists for the 2013 AOA Match and third-years decide on their specialties. First- and second-year students can use the report to allocate their time between studying and extracurricular activities, such as volunteering on medical missions and conducting research on osteopathic manipulative treatment.
Produced by the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine (AACOM), the report is the second of its kind and presents data on graduates who matched into their first-choice specialties and those who did not. The measures include average scores and passing rates on the Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Examination (COMLEX)—USA and depth of volunteer, research and work experience. The report covers AOA-approved programs in 21 specialties and the traditional rotating internship.
Roberto J. Fernandez, MPH, OMS IV, a student at the Des Moines (Iowa) University College of Osteopathic Medicine, read the report. “It is very helpful for gauging how you measure up and seeing the relative weight programs give to volunteer, research and work experience,” he says.
“What’s interesting is that most of the participants who are matching are getting their first-choice specialty,” says Thomas Levitan, AACOM’s vice president for research and application services, who compiled the report. However, more than one-fourth of the graduates who participated in the 2011 AOA Match did not match at all.
Of the 2,208 total match participants, 1,531 matched into their first-choice specialty, 109 matched into a specialty that was not their first choice, and 568 failed to match.
Those who don’t match can participate in a scramble the week of Match Day, which next year is Monday, Feb. 11. During this week, candidates hastily fax their applications to programs with unfilled positions. Alternatively, if candidates have interviewed with programs accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME), they can take part in the National Resident Matching Program match, which takes place a month after the AOA Match.
The participants who matched into their first-choice specialty had average scores of 498 on Level 1 and 497 on Level 2 (Cognitive Evaluation) of COMLEX, with 96% passing Level 2 (Performance Evaluation) on the first attempt. Those who matched into a specialty that wasn’t their first choice had average scores of 471 on Level 1 and 458 on Level 2 (CE) and a first-attempt passing rate of 93% on Level 2 (PE).
The residency candidates who didn’t match had more work experience but less research and volunteer experience than those who matched, as well as lower scores and first-attempt passing rates on COMLEX-USA.
The unmatched participants had average scores of 463 on Level 1 and 448 on Level 2 (CE), while 90% of them passed Level 2 (PE) on the first attempt. More than 82% of these candidates designated just one specialty on their rank order lists and more than 42%, just one program. Thus, it is important for those who have weaker credentials to rank a number of programs in more than one specialty. Levitan suggests that such candidates consider programs that usually do not fill in less-competitive specialties, such as family medicine and internal medicine.
In family medicine, more than 300 positions did not fill during the 2011 match, while internal medicine had more than 100 unfilled positions.
Competitiveness of specialties
As defined by the number of first-choice applicants per position, the most competitive AOA-approved programs in 2011 were physical medicine and rehabilitation, anesthesiology and ophthalmology. The least competitive programs included the traditional rotating internship, family medicine and internal medicine.
Graduates who secured first-choice matches into otolaryngology-facial plastic surgery residencies had the highest mean scores on both COMLEX-USA Level 1 and Level 2 (CE)—599 and 602. In contrast, those matching into psychiatry had the lowest mean scores on Level 1 and Level 2 (CE)—438 and 413. And only 48% of the psychiatry candidates passed Level 2 (CE) on the first attempt.
Showing the broadest range of results, those matching into traditional rotating internships scored a low of 294 and a high of 811 on Level 1 and a low of 236 and a high of 810 on Level 2 (CE).
Students who are wondering whether to pour their limited free time into research projects or humanitarian work will find answers in the data. Trainees who matched into neurology had the most research experience and the second-most work experience but were second from the bottom in volunteer activities. In comparison, those matching into anesthesiology residencies volunteered the most, while obstetrics-gynecology candidates reported the greatest number of work experiences.
AACOM initiated the series of match reports in response to the National Resident Matching Program (NRMP), which publishes detailed analyses of criteria needed to match into ACGME-accredited residencies, such as a 2012 report showing the results of a survey of residency program directors.
Because of the agreement between the AOA and the ACGME to work toward a common accreditation process for residencies by 2015, Levitan is unsure how long AACOM will continue to produce the match reports. “We don’t know yet how the match process will be affected,” he says.
AACOM’s 2011 match report, which was produced with help from the AOA and the National Board of Osteopathic Medical Examiners, is not significantly different from the Osteopathic GME Match Report 2009, Levitan says. However, the first report showed diagnostic radiology candidates with the highest COMLEX scores overall.
In general, graduates are reporting more volunteer, research and work experience than in the past. As Fernandez observes, with the number of DO graduates increasing each year, residency candidates need to have ever-stronger credentials to match into desired programs.
This article was updated to reflect the fact that AACOM produced the match report with help from the AOA and the NBOME.