Until last week, Muhammad Qureshi’s dream of becoming a practising American doctor was on track. Yet by the time Match Day itself rolled around, Qureshi was one of more than 4000 who applied for a first-year residency spot in America, and missed out. Those who studied internationally were statistically far more likely to count amongst that number in 2021.
Though more than 42,000 medical graduates rode the residency rollercoaster this last week, relatively few have heard the crazy story behind the very first Match Day, in 1952. Involving ‘exploding’ residency offers, two Nobel Prize-winning game theory economists, and a med student movement led by a New Orleans-born ex-carrier fighter pilot, it’s a tale worth knowing.
Though few of this year’s medical residency applicants were even alive in 1992, it is emerging as an increasingly pivotal year in recent history. Though not as well recognized by pop culture—or even recent medical history—the year also marked the end of an old era in American residency matching, and the start of a new one.