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A fellowship match is a program used to connect doctors who wish to pursue fellowships in advanced specialties with programs offering fellowship positions. Matches streamline the process, increasing the chances that every doctor who wants a fellowship position will get one, even if it is not necessarily the applicant's first choice. Specialties can choose to coordinate their own fellowship match or to rely on the services of a third party medical education organization, such as the National Resident Matching Program in the United States.
Doctors applying for fellowships start the process with applications to specific fellowship programs. The applications typically include personal statements, transcripts, letters of reference, and interviews. At the end of the application process, the doctor generates a ranked list of all the programs she interviewed with. Fellowship programs also create their own ranked lists of applicants. Both parties submit their lists to the fellowship match.
A computer uses the ranked lists to match up fellows with programs on the basis of preference. In cases where doctors and programs choose each other as their first choices, this can be an easy process. In other instances, the computer may have to dig deeper down the ranked lists to find an appropriate match. At the end of the fellowship match process, the goal is to fill all open positions submitted to the match with applicants seeking positions. Match rates can vary depending on specialty but are often quite high; once a doctor matches, she has an obligation to attend that program except in special circumstances.
Fellowship match results are released on a single day. If there are still open positions available, residents who did not match can apply for these fellowship positions. Releasing information about unfilled positions helps doctors pursue alternative choices and ensures that programs are fully enrolled at the start of their fellowships. Some fellowships may also hold positions outside the match program, accepting applicants for some positions directly while allowing others to be filled through the match system.
Coordinating the fellowship match is a complex task. Professional organizations that oversee various medical specialties usually encourage all fellowships to participate, as this increases the efficiency of the system and provides more opportunities to applicants and fellowship programs alike. Participants need to follow very precise rules, including submitting material by the due date and reporting statistics to the matching organization. These statistics include information on how many doctors complete the program and what kinds of careers doctors pursue after their fellowships.
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