On August 7, 2014, the AAPM and the SDAMPP announced the creation of the MedPhys Match, a medical physics residency-matching program for graduate students and postgraduate trainees. As of mid-October, 75% of all CAMPEP accredited residencies have participated and over 141 applicants have signed up. The benefits of the MedPhys Match include a more streamlined application process, a free application, and the ability to participate as a couple (e.g. obtain a position in the same geographic location as your spouse).
In addition, the MedPhys Match can be implemented in unique ways by the residency program in order to strike a compromise between the new match requirements and traditional residency applications. For instance, a major critique of the match has been that the match deadlines and required residency start date is inflexible. These strict deadline are at odds with the variable degree completion timeline of many students, especially PhD students, in medical physics graduate programs. Therefore, residency programs with multiple slots can choose one slot to be “matched” (i.e., start July 1), while the remaining slots can accommodate new residents who could not graduate by July 1 using traditional rolling applications.
Competition for residency positions is fierce, and in years prior to the MedPhys Match, many students and programs pushed for a matching program similar to those used in medical residency programs in order to level the playing field. Here we present part I of a two-part interview that will follow two applicants and two CAMPEP accredited residency programs through the MedPhys Match process.
Applicant Point of View:
Q1. What is your educational background?
Interviewee 1: BS in Physics, MS in Medical Physics, PhD (in progress) in Medical Physics
Interviewee 2: My BS was in physics, and I am currently finishing up my PhD in a CAMPEP-accredited medical physics graduate program.
Q2. What made you decide to participate in the MedPhys Match Program?
Interviewee 1: I decided to participated in the MedPhys Match, because almost all residency programs I was interested in were participating in the Match as well. Further, I knew that I wanted to pursue a residency in radiation therapy physics, thus the Match was my only option, really.
Interviewee 2: Once I decided that I wanted to apply for residency programs, it became clear that participating in the MedPhys Match Program was the way to go. The list of participating programs was first released in October and has continued to grow. By the time deadlines began to approach, all the programs I was interested in applying to were participating in the Match program.
Q3. How would you describe your experience in the application process so far?
Interviewee 1: The application process was quite straightforward: If I’m not mistaken, almost all (if not all) programs affiliated with the Match are also in the Medical Physics Residency Application Program (MP-RAP). You have to register for the Med Phys Match were you are assigned a Applicant Code. And then you complete the application on AAPM’s Medical Physics Residency Application Program (MP-RAP). Bookmarking and applying for programs was also straightforward.
Interviewee 2: So far the application process hasn’t been too painful. Applying through AAPM’s Medical Physics Residency Application Program (MP-RAP) made the process much easier. Through MP-RAP, you submit a single application packet (including your CV, personal statement, and references) and apply to multiple programs. If you registered for the Match program, applications were free this year. Talking to friends who have previously applied to residencies was helpful for start getting acquainted with the process. I also think getting feedback on my application materials (CV and personal statement) from friends and mentors was very helpful. The most difficult part of the process for me was deciding which programs to apply to and how many I wanted to apply to.
Q4. Do you expect more opportunities for applicants this year? Do you think the match program has made the application process less competitive?
Interviewee 1: As Medical Physicists we appreciate the benefits of optimization. Thus the Match program is definitely an improvement over the prior years as it will globally improve the efficiency of the residency application, interviewing, and acceptance process. This will improve placement and avoid last minute scrambling and additional rounds of interviewing later on. However, I am not sure how it will feel to the individual applicants.
Interviewee 2: Without the early offers and the pressure to respond to offers quickly that came with the Gentleman’s agreement, I think that with the Match program it will be more likely for applicants to get their best offer possible. However, I don’t think that the Match program has made the application process less competitive. Especially this first year, I think applicants will apply to many programs since it’s free, so it will still be very competitive. I do think that the Match program will make the process less messy and potentially more fair.
Q5. Do you have any suggestions on how to make the application process better?
Interviewee 1: There are a couple of improvements that would make the process easier:
– It would be wise to be able to sort/bookmark the programs via their MedPhys Match Codes.
– Programs should be more consistent or at least make the information available as to when their residency applications open and when their deadlines are.
– Another down side to the MP-RAP is that a general personal statement is required, and thus the applicant cannot personalize the statement to a specific program.
Further, this year the MP-RAP was free to applicants. This may increase the number of programs applicant apply to and leaves the programs to sort through many applications.
Interviewee 2: There was plenty of information on the MedPhys Match website and the MP-RAP website about the application process and the how Match works. However, I would have liked more information about the individual programs. Their descriptions and websites typically list some information about what machines they have, what type of treatments they do, how many physicists are in their department, and some information about their current and past residents. Based on this information, it was difficult to get a feel for each program’s unique personality and how they differ from other programs, e.g. how structured the program is, how “researchy” the program is, etc. However, I’m not sure about how to remedy this or if it even needs to be remedied since applicants will learn more about the individual programs if they make it to the interview stage.
Q6. How do you think the match program will impact therapy vs. imaging students?
Interviewee 1: I’m not sure if it will have an impact. Prior to that, students could have applied to imaging residencies as well.
Interviewee 2: I’m a therapy student myself, so I can’t speak too much about the imaging side of things. I will say that I don’t think many students will rank both imaging and therapy programs. At the point where you’re applying for residencies, I’d say most students will be pretty much set on whether they want to do imaging or therapy physics. Also, you can only submit one personal statement and one CV so it would be difficult to cater these documents to both imaging and therapy.
Residency Point of View:
Q1. What type of residency program do you offer?
Residency 1: CAMPEP-accredited Therapy.
Residency 2: Imaging physics residency program.
Q2. What made you decide to participate in the MedPhys Match Program?
Residency 1: Being a residency program not affiliated with a CAMPEP graduate school, I can see that our residency program wouldn’t carry the cachet of those programs. I feel the match will put us with candidates looking for a more clinical-minded career.
Residency 2: The majority of the imaging physics residency program directors decided that the match program was especially important for the THERAPY residency programs, and so we all agreed to participate in order to help make the match successful.
Q3. How would you describe your experience in the application process for far?
Residency 1: We haven’t started the Match process yet (it is early December and we are still accepting applications). This is our second year using the MP-RAP and we have been very happy with it. It is very convenient of getting everything in one file.
Residency 2: We had already been using the MP-RAP but getting all three pieces of the match puzzle was a little confusing. We had to get institutional approval to participate, and did not realize that we had to reopen a recruitment to get our positions properly included. John Antolak has been exceptionally patient and helpful in shepherding us through the process.
Q4. Do you expect more applicants this year than in previous years?
Residency 1: We have received more applicants this year, at this point, than previous years, but it is our second year of CAMPEP accreditation, so that might be skewing our numbers.
Residency 2: Not really. We hope for more QUALIFIED applicants from which to choose.
Q5. Do you think the match program has made it easier to find the right candidate?
Residency 1: To be determined…I hope so.
Residency 2: We shall see.We had already initiated a recruitment before the match was announced, so we have already interviewed candidates who would be acceptable to our program. We look forward to competition from other applicants.
Q6. Do you have any suggestions on how to make the application process better?
Residency 1: Not really. We like the MP-RAP…much easier than directly contacting each candidate.
Residency 2: Not really.
Q7. Would you participate in the MedPhys Match next year? Why? Or why not?
Residency 1: Probably. I assume this year’s experience will greatly influence this decision.
Residency 2: Yes. I think that we will enjoy simplification and standardization of the recruitment process as much as the therapy residency programs. We also want to maintain solidarity with the other programs.