July 9, 2021, 1:30 p.m. David Mitchell — The AAFP and four other family medicine organizations are urging residency programs to “strongly consider conducting virtual interviews and virtual visits for all applicants” during the 2021-22 Match season.
The COVID-19 pandemic drove the Match online last year. Despite the necessity for students and programs to adapt to a virtual interview format, family medicine marked 12 years of growth for the specialty and the 10th consecutive year that an all-time record number of students had matched into family medicine. The virtual process eliminated travel costs for students and provided flexibility in scheduling interviews.
“The driving factor behind this recommendation is the belief that what happened with virtual interviews improved equity in the application process,” said Karen Mitchell, M.D., vice president of the AAFP’s Division of Medical Education. “Having another year of data would be useful to see if that’s true.”
Other specialties — including obstetrics and gynecology, ophthalmology, pediatrics, psychiatry, and urology — also have released guidelines for the 2021-2022 Match season that include recommendations for virtual interviews. Mitchell said more specialties are likely to follow suit.
Although the virtual format won’t be new this year, it might be different than last season. In the past, students and programs have faced identical deadlines for rank order lists. The Organization of Program Director Associations has requested that the National Resident Matching Program separate those deadlines so program deadlines occur prior to applicant deadlines.
That suggestion aligns with a recommendation put forth by the AAFP and the four organizations that comprise the Council of Academic Family Medicine (the Association of Departments of Family Medicine, the Association of Family Medicine Residency Directors, the North American Primary Care Research Group and the Society of Teachers of Family Medicine) that “any in-person visits should happen only after interviews are complete and match ranking lists are finalized by programs.”
Mitchell said that potential change would allow candidates to make in-person visits to programs with a mutual interest that wouldn’t affect program rankings and would address students’ concerns about being able to experience the culture of the programs and communities they consider.
“It would allow for a judicious use of time and money for everyone involved,” Mitchell said.
Program directors have expressed concerns that the virtual format may lead students to apply to more programs, making the process more challenging for institutions. In letters to the NRMP, the Association of American Medical Colleges and the Electronic Residency Application Service, OPDA expressed broad support among program directors for implementing limits on the number of interviews each applicant may attend.
Similarly, the family medicine organizations recommended that “advisors and medical schools should support and counsel students in targeted applications.”
The family medicine organizations offered three additional recommendations:
What does it all mean for applicants? The AAFP created resources to help students navigate the virtual Match last year and more are on the way. For example, the AAFP is planning an August webinar to launch the new Match season with the following goals:
Students can connect with representatives from hundreds of residency programs, including in one-on-one appointments, July 29-31 during the virtual National Conference of Family Medicine Residents and Medical Students. That event also includes workshops related to applying to residencies and interviewing, and numerous networking opportunities.