DO Decisions: Should I do both Matches (ACGME vs AOA) in 2016/2017?

Tonight is the night before the ACGME side of the Match opens in ERAS. If you already applied on the AOA side then your curriculum vitae, personal statement and letters of recommendation are likely already complete in ERAS. It’s time to decide if you’re ready for Round Two.

The Decision to be Made

Tonight, you are likely considering the pros and cons of entering the MD side of the Match. You may have experienced “advice” from your own medical school that you avoid the ACGME Match. You may be feeling doubts about the future, especially in light of the upcoming merger. You may have been told by recent graduates about AOA residencies that chose to end their programs last year, rather than pursue the accreditation required to exist in 2020. You are probably feeling extremely conflicted.

What are the Negatives?

There are three down-sides to applying to the ACGME Match.

First, you are likely more than doubling your cost by applying. That’s a fact. When you get interviews from both matches you will find yourselves going to more interviews. It is expensive, yes. But this determines your career, and your happiness for the next three years. Don’t take it lightly. Budget, try to group interviews by location, use free sleep services like Swap & Snooze, drive when you can, do whatever you have to, but don’t base your decision on cost of residency application fees. That’s foolishly short-sighted.

Second, you’ll have to choose again in 2017. In January whether or not to rank AOA programs, or skip the DO Match and wait for the ACGME one. This is nerve-wracking, I know. But you have four months before you make that decision, and it will be influenced by your interview experiences. You can choose to go AOA or ACGME in January, but ONLY if you allow yourself to apply.

The final downside is lack OMM/OMT. If you end up in an ACGME-only program you will be unlikely to have any opportunity to practice this skill set. If you enjoy the foundation of our side of the medical profession, this is a big deal. Only you can decide if this will make/break your feelings on a residency. Many friends of mine chose to apply to dual-accredited programs to avoid this issue, however this can be tricky, too.

Will ACGME even look at a DO?

Most of Family Medicine on the ACGME side loves both MDs and DOs, and all the “advice” you’ve heard from those going into peds, surgery, etc about how much the MD side disparages DO’s is garbage. There are some programs that will not take DOs without USMLE, so you *do* have to do some homework tonight, but it’s worth the effort.

More importantly, you’ll never know unless you apply. There’s nothing wrong with giving yourself the option, as long as that program is DO friendly. How do you know if a residency is friendly? The easy way is if they clearly state they accept COMLEX on their application page and if they have DOs in the program. If that info is missing,  however, you can always call and ask.

Family Medicine is full of variety, and you’ll see similarities and differences between programs regardless of which Match they’re affiliated with. The more you see, the easier it is to decide what’s best for YOU. And applying tomorrow gives you better chances to get more interviews, so you CAN make that choice in January. It’ll suck to realize in November you could’ve gotten more interviews in a state you’d like to live in, if only you’d applied on both sides.

What about the current Dual-Accredited Programs?

It depends on each program, and I only applied to two. One program said my odds were higher on the DO side, but that if I wanted to do the ACGME Match they would rank me on that side instead.

The other residency made it quite clear that they would only be ranking DO’s on the DO side, and fully explained the administrative reasons why. Yet I ranked that program lowest on my list. Why? Because I didn’t want to go somewhere that had already decided  I wasn’t worth the hassle of  paperwork.

Do your homework and ASK QUESTIONS. It’s okay, programs LOVE when you care enough to ask. Just be polite about it, and don’t send multiple emails in a day. Calling is also nice, especially if you know basic human interaction skills and how to be polite.

So, should you do both Matches?

YES. By applying to both and taking interviews as they come, you give yourself more opportunity. I ended up interviewing at large academic programs, fairly small community programs in rural areas and several places in between. Seeing and experiencing all that made it a lot easier to decide what was going to be a good fit for me.

What did the FMS Founders Choose?

For the curious: By the time I had to make my choice in January I chose to go ACGME, matching to a community medicine program that is part of a large university system on the West Coast. Shannon, who has a passion for OMT and the skills to back it up, chose AOA on the East Coast. Farrah chose to go ACGME at a large program back on the East Coast. All of us were conflicted choosing our number one program, because we had multiple “number ones” for different reasons, yet we finalized our ROLs and all of us Matched to our #1 programs.

Later this year we’ll hopefully be able to post individually about interview experiences, the variety of program types and creating our rank order lists. For now, I hope this was helpful in choosing what’s right for you. Good luck, and may the odds be ever in your favor.

May the Odds be Ever in your Favor


By Pixie






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