Purpose: Communication between programs and applicants during the Match has raised concern among medical educators. This study explores the patterns of such communication and its effect on the ethical and professional development of medical students.
Method: In March and April 2001, the authors made a secure, anonymous questionnaire available online to 1,362 medical students who were graduating from ten U.S. medical schools and who participated in the 2001 Match. Data analysis included chi square, ANOVA, and correlation tests as appropriate.
Results: A total of 740 students (54.3%) completed the questionnaire. Patterns of communication between programs and applicants varied significantly by medical school and specialty. Communication initiated by applicants came predominantly from those from less highly ranked medical schools (p = .000), and those applying to specialties with lower fill rates (p = .000). Programs initiated significantly more communication with applicants from more highly ranked schools (p = .006), and with those applying to specialties with higher fill rates (p = .000). The amount of pressure felt by applicants was related to the level of communication, whether initiated by applicants (p = .028) or programs (p = .000). Applicants who felt more pressure were significantly more likely to make misleading statements to programs (p = .000).
Conclusions: Communication between applicants and programs during the Match varies and may have adverse effects on the ethical and professional development of medical students. This study provides support for proposals to limit communication between programs and applicants during the residency selection process.