Match Day Sets New Record, Celebrations Muted by COVID-19

Megan Brooks

March 20, 2020

The 2020 Main Residency Match celebrated its largest in history. A record 40,084 US and international applicants submitted program choices for 37,256 available positions, an increase of 2071 positions (5.9%) over 2019, the National Resident Matching Program (NRMP) announced today.

The total number of available first-year (PGY-1) positions rose to 34,266, an increase of 2072 (6.4%) over last year. This year, 94.6% of all positions and PGY-1 positions were filled.

David Chen, BA, fourth-year medical student at the University of Washington, Seattle, matched to his first choice ― the University of California, Davis (internal medicine/primary care).

"I was on a grocery run to distract myself when I found the results. I am thrilled! Well, it is sad that I am not with my friends, but it is nonetheless a happy day," he told Medscape Medical News.

Chen, who has been self-isolating because of possible exposure to coronavirus, said it's "certainly a bummer that the match day celebration had to be canceled due to COVID-19, an unprecedented global crisis. Most of my classmates and I must spend this milestone in isolation.

"It helps me to remember that I am relatively unaffected by COVID-19. Third-year medical students must deal with the uncertainty of fulfilling graduation requirements, and other members of the community face unemployment, inability to find childcare, and full-blown illness from the virus," Chen said.

Julian Lejbman, fourth-year medical student at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine in Philadelphia, also matched to his first choice ― the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) ― where he will pursue internal medicine-pediatrics. He'll be joined by two of his good friends who also matched to UCLA. "Actually, many people from our class are going to UCLA, so it will be good to have each other and provide moral support," he told Medscape Medical News.

COVID-19 has tempered the celebrations though, Lejbman said. It's been "hard with not being able to gather in person and celebrate our success and also provide support for anyone who might be feeling alone with no social gathering. We have been FaceTiming pretty much every day in big groups to stay in touch, which has become the new normal in some ways."

Primary Care Highlights

Of the 34,266 first-year positions offered this year, 17,135 were in the primary care specialties, up 7.4% over the number offered last year. Within the primary care slots, 16,343 (95.4%) were filled; 7369 (45.1%) were filled by US MD seniors. Other highlights in primary care:

  • Internal medicine programs offered 8697 categorical positions (581 more than in 2019); 8324 (95.7%) positions were filled, with 3496 (40.2%) filled by US MD seniors. The percentage of internal medicine categorical positions filled by US MD seniors has fallen every year since 2015; however, fill rates for US DO seniors increased from 6.9% in 2016 to 16.0% in 2020.

  • Family medicine programs offered 4662 positions (555 more than in 2019); 4313 (92.5%) positions were filled, with 1543 (33.1%) filled by US MD seniors. 2020 is the second consecutive year that the number of US MD seniors matching to family medicine has fallen. However, a record number of US DO seniors (1392) matched in family medicine, making up 29.9% of all matches in family medicine.

  • Pediatrics programs offered 2864 categorical positions (17 more than last year); 2812 (98.2%) positions were filled; 1731 (60.4%) were filled by US MD seniors.

Top Specialities

Each year, the results of the Match can help gauge the makeup of the physician workforce down the road, as measured by the percentage of positions filled overall and the percentage filled by US seniors. Among the highlights this year:

  • The specialties with more than 30 positions for which all available positions were filled were dermatology, medicine–emergency medicine, neurologic surgery, physical medicine and rehabilitation (categorical), integrated plastic surgery, and thoracic surgery.

  • The specialties with more than 30 positions for which more than 80% were filled with US MD seniors were integrated plastic surgery (91.7%), medicine-pediatrics (81%), neurologic surgery (87.5%), orthopedic surgery (80.8%), otolaryngology (88.6%), thoracic surgery (84.2%), and vascular surgery (81.3%).

  • The specialties with more than 30 positions in which fewer than 45% were filled with US MD seniors were family medicine (33.1%), internal medicine (categorical, 40.2%), pathology (33.8 %), pediatrics (primary, 39.1 %), and surgery (preliminary, 24.7%).

Highlights in Other Specialities

  • Obstetrics-gynecology programs offered 1433 first-year positions (48 more than in 2019) and filled all but three. The overall fill rate was 99.8%, with 75.5% filled by US MD seniors.

  • Orthopedic surgery programs offered 849 PG-1 positions (94 more than in 2019) ― a 12.4% increase. The overall fill rate was 99.4%; the number of positions filled by US MD seniors fell for the first time since 2016, but only modestly. "Strikingly," the NRMP said, "US DO seniors filled 112 (13.2%) of the available positions this year compared to only 13 (1.7%) in 2019."

  • Radiology-diagnostic (PGY-2) programs offered 990 positions (25 more than in 2019) and filled 97.6%. The number of positions filled by US MD seniors has declined each year since 2018, but the number filled by US DO seniors has increased each year (here have been a total of 77.6% since 2016).

Additional Applicant Highlights

  • The total number of Match registrants in 2020 was the highest ever, at 44,959, with 40,084 submitting program choices.

  • A record-high 19,326 US MD seniors submitted program choices, an increase of 401 over 2019; 18,108 (93.7%) matched to first-year positions, the highest number ever. The 94% PGY-1 match rate for US MD seniors has been consistent for several years.

  • A total of 5167 US citizen international medical school students and graduates (IMGs) submitted program choices this year ― an increase of 87 over 2019. Of those, 3154 (61%) matched to PGY-1 positions, which is the highest match rate since 1991.

  • This year saw a slight uptick in the number of non-US citizen IMGs who participated in the Match, following a 3-year declining trend. A total of 6907 IMGs submitted program choices (38 more than in 2019); 4222 IMGs (61.1%) matched to first-year positions, up 2.5 percentage points from 2019, the highest match rate since 1990.

Unmatched applicants participated in the NRMP Match Week Supplemental Offer and Acceptance Program (SOAP) to secure an unfilled position. This year, 1897 positions were offered during SOAP; results will be available in May.

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