Having "stress-read" multiple posts on Student Doctor Network (SDN) regarding dental residency match day, I braced myself for the possibility that ANYTHING can happen. At school, I sensed that anxiety was at an all time high. Several of my classmates who also applied took the day off from clinic entirely in anticipation of the tremendous impact that this result would have on their career trajectory. This is understandable considering the spectrum of consequences -- some students may "match" with their first choice program, while others may have to reconsider their path due to not "matching" with any programs.
For those who are unfamiliar, let's first answer the question: "What is match?"
Taken directly from the Dental Match website, this process is described as a way to provide "an orderly process to help applicants obtain positions in postdoctoral dental education programs of their choice, and to help programs obtain applicants of their choice.
Similar matching programs are used across North America in the annual recruitment of doctors, pharmacists, psychologists, optometrists, podiatrists, and other health professions."
Essentially, this process boils down to five steps:
1. You apply for a dental specialty program(s)
2. You attend an interview(s) at a dental specialty program(s)
3. You rank each program you interviewed at based on preference (1st choice, 2nd choice...)
4. Each program ranks each interviewee in a similar manner
5. An algorithm takes into account preferences of both programs and applicants, and creates a "Match"
This "match" is then revealed on a specific time and date*. Once you are "matched" to a program, you are expected to fulfill the "match", meaning you will take all necessary measures to attend the program. So even if you "matched" to your least desired choice, you are still expected to matriculate into that residency program.
*Note that "match day" is sometimes different for each specialty.
Admittedly, it was difficult to sleep the night prior to "match". I had a full day in the clinic and went to the gym for a grueling workout session afterwards -- anything to keep my mind away from thinking about the possibilities of tomorrow.
I remember wanting to sleep until 7AM, but somehow my body woke me up at 5AM. Match results were not supposed to be revealed until 9AM that day, but I figured I might as well check my email.
Lo and behold, I saw an email from Dental Match that read: "Your Dental Match Result". I aggressively clicked it open to which I see this:
Mind you, I was still half-asleep still. After viewing the email several times to make sure I was reading correctly, I experienced a moment of disbelief. After all, I had ranked UCSF Ortho as my first choice program. I was ecstatic, to say the least. After the next two hours passed, in what seemed like the blink of an eye as I updated my loved ones of this news, I had to go to school and deliver some crowns for my patients.
Following a fulfilling day in the clinic, I decided to take my friend up on his offer to go out and celebrate my "match." A group of my dental fraternity friends (Jenny included) met up with us and we ended up going to one of my favorite restaurants in the city, Farmhouse Thai Kitchen. Two of them even attempted the infamous "spicy noodle challenge," in which one of the two (wearing the red hat below) actually beat the challenge in record time earning him a free plane ticket to Thailand, courtesy of the restaurant.
Reflecting back on this eventful day, I can think of a couple things I can recommend to others in surviving "match" day, regardless of outcome:
1. When you submit your "match" rank list, submit it based on true preference (rather than ranking programs higher because you think you have a better shot) so you do not regret your match outcome. Imagine ranking your least favorite program the highest (because you feel like you did the best during your interview), and then matching into said program. Yes, you might have matched, but you'll never know if you could've actually matched into the program that you actually liked the most if you ranked based on true preference. (By the way, this is what Dental Match recommends as well)
2. Schedule your "match" day around what you enjoy doing, if possible. For some, it means taking time off of school to chill, hang out with friends, or just enjoy some alone time. Personally, regardless of outcome, I knew that I would be the happiest on "match" day centering the majority of it around my regular routine of going to school, helping my patients, going to the gym...etc.
3. Surround yourself with good company, as I fortunately had. Find those who will be accepting of you, no matter the result. The entire process can leave you feeling vulnerable, given the uncertainty right up until match.
4. Show thanks regardless of outcome, wherever applicable. Thank your family/friends. Thank your faculty who supported you with a letter of recommendation.
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