Not all matches are made in heaven.

A PERFECT MATCH: The Selection Ritual to Become a Doctor is the first documentary ever made about the medical residency match. The film follows four fourth-year Vanderbilt University School of Medicine students as they undergo the excitement and anxiety of the match process. By tradition every year on Match Day, hundreds of family, friends, and faculty gather in a packed auditorium to watch fourth year students ascend the stage, open an envelope, and announce the results of their residency match. The culmination of each students’ lifelong odyssey toward medicine, from childhood dreams to the interview trail, every envelope holds a unique surprise.

Featuring Vanderbilt University School of Medicine residency program directors, Nobel laureate and economist, Alvin Roth, and National Resident Matching Program® (NRMP) CEO, Mona Signer, the documentary film examines the extraordinary complexities that together could create a perfect match.

What is the Match?

The Main Residency Match ® is an elaborate selection process of medical students by residency programs that is managed by the NRMP, often referred to simply as the Match.

Typically, students in their final year of medical school apply and are invited to interview at residency programs in the specialty of their choosing beginning in the Fall. In February, after interviews are finished, residency programs create a list that ranks all their candidates. A variety of factors is involved in this decision: students’ board exam scores, grades, publications, letters of recommendations, personal statements, impression during the interview, and often a certain je ne sais quoi that makes a student stand out. Similarly, students submit a list that ranks their preferences of residency programs. This decision is also based on a number of elements, including proximity to family, prestige, research opportunities, job market for a significant other, Visa status, and often a “gut feeling” during the interview process.

The preferences of both the residency programs and the medical students are entered into an intricate algorithm, whose most recent revision was designed by Nobel Laureate Dr. Alvin Roth and Dr. Eliot Peranson. As Roth explains in greater detail in A PERFECT MATCH, the algorithm is based on the idea of stability and favors the preferences of the students. Read Dr. Alvin Roth’s 1999 paper describing the revised algorithm here. The algorithm analyzes the rank order lists, which have condensed every student and program into a numerical value, and pairs each applicant with a single residency program. Before knowing the result, all students are contractually bound to accept the placement that the algorithm designates for them.

On Match Day, in mid-March at noon, students nationwide are allowed to view the contents of a letter containing their residency match. At Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, family and friends gather to celebrate the most important day of a medical student’s career.

What happens if an applicant does not match?

The NRMP manages the Supplemental Offer and Acceptance Program ® (SOAP) that allows unmatched students the opportunity to accept unfilled spots in residency programs across the country. This high-stakes, fast-paced process occurs in the days leading up to Match Day.

When will the film be released?

A PERFECT MATCH is currently in post-production and is scheduled to be released in Spring 2018.