Match Interviews Should Stay Virtual to Be More Equitable

Kate Hitchcock, MD, PhD


April 05, 2022

Medical education is not just a program for building knowledge and skills in its recipients… it is also an experience which creates attitudes and expectations.

—Abraham Flexner

The process by which doctors get jobs is deeply unfair.

I know, and water is wet, right?

As with everything, it's about who you know as much as how well you perform. The Great Plague of 2020 has given us an opportunity to correct one major contributor to the uneven playing field, though, and I think we should grab it with both hands.

As you know, if you are a doctorly type, senior medical students apply to a huge number of residency training programs in order to ensure that at least one will choose to hire them the following year. Depending on specialty, this may require 15 or more interviews with potential employers, and until recently all of those had to be in person. In radiation oncology, at least, this traditionally followed 2 full months of away rotations, paying double rent all the while, ensuring that checking accounts would be at an all-time low before interview season even started.

One or two interviews might be easily accessible from the student's school, but the rest required long-distance travel followed by a hotel room stay. Multiply the cost of (plane ticket + hotel + ground transportation) by 15, and there is no way in the modern US to not come up with a very large number.

What that means is that some students ended up putting 11,347 miles on their already old cars (thank you, Saturn), while others flew out and flew back home again, leaving available lots of time to write thank-you letters and keep up with their coursework and write mean things on Children of rich parents could attend more interviews, more widely spread interviews, and interviews scheduled closer together.

These last two interview cycles, though, forced a change that leveled things out more than a little. Everyone had to interview online. So students with less money, though undoubtedly still held back in other ways, were not prevented from attending the same number and variety of interviews as their more affluent counterparts by lack of pure cash in hand.

Something was lost, of course. We down here in sunny Florida have wept bitterly over not being able to seat interviewees under swaying palm trees with a brightly colored beverage while blizzards stopped all travel into more northern institutions. Luckily, our program's merits resulted in just the match we wanted even without the frills.

I wonder, though, if there are institutions that rely on wining and dining to cover up undesirable educational programs and are thus failing at this time. I guess we will see when the discussion about whether to go back to in-person interviews commences. If anyone is particularly passionate about a return to the old ways, my first assumption will be that they are hurting for lack of smoke and mirrors.

I will be pulling for online interviews, followed by optional in-person second looks after programs have finalized their match lists but before candidates have done so.

How would you like to see the match process change?

Please join the discussion below, but if you need to communicate with me offline you can reach me via

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About Dr Kate Hitchcock
Kate Hitchcock, MD, PhD, is a radiation oncologist, biomedical engineer, and retired aircraft carrier driver who grew up as a Wyoming cowgirl. When she is not at the hospital, you can find her with Carolyn, Mary, Tyler, Nick, Marlee, and Colby the barking dog, enjoying the natural splendor of the great state of Florida. She thinks you should visit sometime and try to solve the puzzle of why the natives have so carefully shunted all of the tourists toward the House of Mouse. Connect with her on Twitter: @hitchcock_kate


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