Exploring Match Space: How Medical School and Specialty Characteristics Affect Residency Match Geography in the United States

Acad Med. 2022 Sep 1;97(9):1368-1373. doi: 10.1097/ACM.0000000000004777. Epub 2022 Jun 14.


Purpose: To explore how school and specialty characteristics impact the geographic match location of U.S. senior medical students.

Method: The authors collected student match data between 2018 and 2020 from U.S. MD-granting medical schools and calculated the distance between students' medical schools and residency training programs. They use the term "match space" to describe this distance. Match space was codified on a 5-point ordinal scale by where the student matched: 1 = home institution, 2 = home state, 3 = an adjacent state, 4 = the same or adjacent U.S. Census division (and not adjacent state), and 5 = skipped at least one U.S. Census division. Ordinal logistic regression correlated school and specialty characteristics with match space.

Results: During the study period, 26,102 medical students, representing 66 medical schools from 28 states, matched in 23 specialties. Fifty-nine percent of students were from public institutions, and 27% of schools ranked in the top 40 of National Institutes of Health (NIH) research funding. The match space was higher for students graduating from private institutions (odds ratio [OR] 1.14; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.06 to 1.22) and matching into more competitive specialties (OR 1.07; 95% CI, 1 to 1.14). The match space was lower for students graduating from top NIH-funded institutions (OR 0.89; 95% CI, 0.85 to 0.94) and from schools with a higher percentage of in-state matriculants (OR 0.75; 95% CI, 0.72 to 0.77).

Conclusions: School characteristics such as region, public/private designation, NIH funding, and percentage of in-state students were associated with residency match geography. Matching into more competitive specialties also showed a marginal increase in match distance. These findings suggest that a student's choice of specialty and medical school may impact subsequent geographic placement for residency training, which should be considered by students and residency programs alike.

MeSH terms

  • Career Choice
  • Geography
  • Humans
  • Internship and Residency*
  • Schools, Medical
  • Students, Medical*
  • United States