Residency Match Programs vs the NFL Draft: Where Would You End Up?

Kathy D. Miller, MD


August 14, 2023

This transcript has been edited for clarity.

Good morning, everyone. It's Dr Kathy Miller from Indiana University. It was an exciting night in my house last night as we were all watching the NFL draft, waiting to see which quarterback the Colts would select. I have to tell you, my son is delighted with the choice. My husband was hoping for a different direction. We'll see over time how this goes.

I realize the NFL draft comes not long after the residency match program results. It got me thinking about how these two very professional worlds came to two very different approaches for giving or assigning people what, in effect, is their first professional job.

The match program was designed to give the greatest good and the best possible result for the program, giving them their highest-rated candidates who also ranked the program, and for the applicants, giving the applicant the highest program that also rated them. That's one way of approaching it.

The NFL draft takes a very different approach. They rank the teams in reverse order and allow them to trade and shuffle as they will. All the power goes to the teams, with none to the professionals as they wait to see who picks them. You could argue they do have some choices. Once they're drafted, they can sign a contract and come to an agreement or not. If they don't come to an agreement, then perhaps they'll find another option.

This really got me thinking. Where would I have ended up if the match program wasn't a match program but a draft? How would my life have been different? How would Bryce Young's life be different if the NFL had a match program? Bryce Young's life probably wouldn't be different, but maybe it would be for other folks.

It's an interesting thing for me to think about this morning, and I hope you enjoy thinking about it as well. I'd love your thoughts on the match program and how we might do this better.

Kathy D. Miller, MD, is associate director of clinical research and co-director of the breast cancer program at the Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center at Indiana University. Her career has combined both laboratory and clinical research in breast cancer.

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