The following was submitted as a series of comments on my Physician’s Weekly post about Missouri’s new law allowing medical school graduates who did not match into residency positions to work under supervision. The comments have been edited for length and clarity:
I am a 38-year-old US medical graduate who has attempted to match 3 times with no success. I decided not to throw the money away again this cycle. I have half a million dollars in educational loans. I would exchange my situation with any non-US-IMG because they probably don’t have massive loans. I have seen kids coming fresh from India with no loans who match in their first attempts because they score high enough on USMLE to separate themselves from people like me.
Based on USMLE scores, the matching system is fair to a lot of us. What fails US grads is the educational loan structure that allows us to borrow without any accountability of medical schools that are benefiting most. If medical schools are going to produce doctors who cannot match after genuine attempts, the schools should be blamed. They have standards that require students to pass each course in order to graduate. If they believe a student is not good enough to become a doctor, they shouldn’t graduate the student. Students would benefit more if the medical schools could determine which med students won’t be good doctors earlier on and dismiss them. Then the students will not pile up so much debt.
Some graduates find that their training is not good enough to become a physician. It’s a scam. Why do medical schools get a free ride on this? Everyone who has completed medical school successfully with passing scores on USMLE Step 1 and 2 should be allowed to use that acquired knowledge. Why not let those who have demonstrated they can work under supervision get job?
What fails US grads is the educational loan structure that allows us to borrow without any accountability of medical schools that are benefiting most.
When I try to get a nonclinical job, they read my resume and tell me I am overqualified for the position. I have tried to hide my MD degree and use only my Bachelor of Science degree (biology) in order to get a job. But they tell me I don’t have experience, and the big gap between my undergrad education and my current situation cannot be explained. Some employers have asked me if I spent the time in jail.
I applied to PA schools last year and had no success. Some of my rejection letters said as a medical doctor, I am not a good fit for PA career. Some PA programs wanted me to go back to college again to take pre-med courses.
Besides medicine I have no other skills I can use to make a living. I am broke. I refuse to become homeless. Last month I applied and qualified for food stamps. Next week I am starting a $10.15/hour job as a UPS package handler while I am looking for other better opportunities.
Each year about 5% of US graduates do not match to a residency and have nowhere to go. There are many reasons we did not match—most commonly because of academics. If I were a program director, I would interview the best applicants and rank them accordingly. I just believe unmatched doctors must be given other opportunities to make use of their acquired knowledge instead wasting it in a warehouse or a grocery store.
If fresh college grads with 2 years in PA school can become providers under a licensed physician why can’t someone who made it through med school in 4 years function at the same level? Having an MD degree without a residency is like having a felony record. No one will give you a job. Having an MD degree without a residency dooms you to struggle in life. I wish I didn’t have the heavy weight of the MD degree on my back.
I hope marginal pre-med students will read my story and make a rational decision before applying to medical school. Med schools want to fill their classes because they know the more students they have, the more money they will make. As they collect your tuition, they will tell you they are nonprofit institutions.
No med schools will tell pre-med students the drawbacks such as the scarcity of postgraduate training as med school class sizes increased 30% since 2000. Most schools only publish lists of students who matched successfully and fail to mention those who don’t match. Pre-med students should be told what happens to all graduates of each med school.
My story may not be relevant to pre-meds who have demonstrated great potential in medicine (GPA, MCAT, and motivation). The problem is some med schools can’t fill their classes with 100% smart kids. What they do instead is lower their standards to get more students to fill the class. Why? Because they want to make money and are not held accountable.
If they can’t recruit students who can become licensed physicians in the US, the classes should be left unfilled. What is point of educating someone and giving him a piece of paper that can’t be used? These institutions should be held accountable for tuition and fees if a medical graduate attempts to match to complete his training but failed. This will force them to dismiss academically or professionally unfit students from medical schools before they accrue massive loans.
I don’t see how the schools could ever be forced to do what the writer wants.
What do you think about this essay?
Skeptical Scalpel is a practicing surgeon and was a surgical department chairman and residency program director for many years. He is board-certified in general surgery and a surgical sub-specialty and has re-certified in both several times. For the last two years, he has been blogging at SkepticalScalpel.blogspot.com and tweeting as @SkepticScalpel. His blog has had more than 300,000 page views, and he has over 3,700 followers on Twitter.