This morning I was running late for handover when I unexpectedly ran into the ob/gyn program director (PD). This is the first time I’d seen him since the match, and I’d be lying if I said that I haven’t been avoiding/dreading this interaction since then. I was suddenly faced with the decision on how to act in this rather uncomfortable situation. While I wanted to snuff him off and walk away, I chose the higher road and stopped to talk to him.
He started off by saying that he was “very surprised” with how the match went because they didn’t match any of their own students (including me). He then went on to ask me where I was heading for residency and if I was happy to go there. He had this tone in his voice like he was genuinely interested or excited about my future prospects. I replied by saying that I felt, professionally and educationally, it is a really good thing I am going. I continued by telling him that I probably would have ranked [where I’m going] first, if it wasn’t for all the reasons why I wanted to stay here. At this, his tone suddenly changed. (I think for a second he was hoping he could avoid scrutiny if I admitted that I chose somewhere else as my first choice)
Basically, I told the PD that I ranked his program as my top choice and effectually insinuated that the reason I’m not staying here is because of how they ranked me. I didn’t do this in any rude or unprofessional way, but I think it had the desired effect.
At this point, he sort of got antsy and tried to blame the whole matching system: “Yeah, I really don’t know how all that happened. We try our hardest to put the list together the way we want it, but sometimes it is just out of our control. I think it has more to do with how everyone else ranks us more than how we rank them.” Well, yes, this is true to some extent. But overall, it doesn’t matter how high a student ranks a program; if the program doesn’t want them (or doesn’t rank them high), they won’t get the spot. My case is a perfect example: I wanted to stay here and I made it my first choice, but I didn’t get it – so they didn’t have me high on their list. The interesting thing about the whole situation is that this program is generally not well sought after (it’s got some problems, there are lots of better ob/gyn programs in the country, this is a small city, and the weather really sucks) and most of the people who come here from out of province hate it here and some even transfer out. So it’s not hard to predict that the people who are coming here probably didn’t have it as their first choice and got turned down from other programs before getting assigned here. It is a confusing situation, and when it comes down to it, I got a better end of the stick: I didn’t get my first choice, but a better, more competitive and sought after program ranked me high enough to match even though it was my third choice.
Regardless of what happened, the reality of the situation is that the program here didn’t rank me high. Fine. Whatever. I’ll come to terms with it eventually. But don’t lie to me and pretend that you don’t know what happened… and don’t blame the “system” and say that it’s surprising and confusing when we both know how it is designed to work. That is just plain insulting.