Match Day can be a tense time for medical students waiting to know where they’ll spend the next two years of their lives. But over the last few years, the match has caused anxiety for otolaryngology as well, as the number of applicants versus the number of residency slots has swung pendulum-style between having too many applicants to having too few.
Explore This IssueFebruary 2020
After a peak in 2014, the number of applicants to otolaryngology remained fairly stable until 2016, when it dropped precipitously, according to the National Resident Matching Program. Even so, only two residency spots that year went unfilled prior to the Supplemental Offer and Acceptance Program (SOAP). In 2017, the number of ranked U.S. seniors who applied to the specialty (303) fell below the actual number of available positions (305), and 14 spots went unfilled after the initial match. In the 2018 match, the numbers weren’t much better: The number of ranked U.S. seniors (284) again fell below the actual number of available positions (315).
This changed in 2019 when a total of 398 U.S. seniors applied for 328 otolaryngology positions. Indications from the 2020 match show that the pendulum has swung up again, with the number of applications per applicant climbing steeply. Otolaryngology applicants put in an average of 72 applications each, according to David Chang, MD, residency program director for the department of otolaryngology–head and neck surgery at the University of Missouri in Columbia, who has examined the otolaryngology match numbers in depth over the last five years.
“For a couple of years, we came dangerously close to the number of applicants being near to the number of slots,” said Michael G. Stewart, MD, professor and chairman of otolaryngology–head and neck surgery at Weill Cornell Medical College/NewYork–Presbyterian Hospital. “But the numbers have gone back up, and by a lot. For our four slots, two years ago my program received 275 applications. This year we received 405.”
Many believe the reason behind this year’s influx is perceived competition to garner enough interviews to ensure a match. “Match 2020 is very competitive. We received 454 applications this season for four positions,” said Cristina Cabrera-Muffly, MD, associate residency program director and associate professor of otolaryngology at the University of Colorado in Aurora. “If a student is going to spend money on medical school, then spending a bit more to apply to more programs during the match really isn’t a disincentive.”
Mona M. Abaza, MD, MS, professor of otolaryngology at the University of Colorado in Aurora, said she believes an additional factor in the higher application numbers is the completion of the single accreditation process with the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME). “Last year was the first year that all of the osteopathic residency programs in the country, in every specialty, were accredited under the ACGME and in a single match rather than in their own separate match,” she explained. “There are some osteopathic programs that have been rolled into the otolaryngology total, but I’m certain that the single match has increased the numbers of applicants.”