As Yale’s other professional school graduates struggle to find jobs in a down economy, Yale medical students — nearly across the board — are sitting pretty.
Close to 100 percent of fourth-year medical school students will either be leaving Yale for their first- or second-choice residency program or staying and doing a fifth year of fully funded research, Assistant Dean of Students at Yale School of Medicine Nancy Angoff said in an interview with the News on Thursday.
There has been little change in the percentage of graduates from a given medical school matched with their first or second residency choice from previous years, Angoff said, despite the economic decline and an uncertain job market. While the School of Medicine does not have official data on how their students fared this year compared with previous years, Angoff said that reactions at this year’s Match Day — when graduating medical students learn where they will be doing their residencies and in what specialty — were overwhelmingly positive.
“We don’t see students’ lists when they put them in — but it seemed like people were very happy this year,” Angoff said, referring to students’ preference listings.
School of Medicine students interviewed agreed. In a time of increasing job insecurity, even those in the first three years of medical school said they were encouraged by students’ matches.
“From my perspective, it seemed pretty great,” Scott Hunter MED ’10 said. “I certainly don’t have any concerns about if I’m going to be matched in the future based on where I see people are going.”
He added that medical school is “really great for the risk-averse” because, once a doctor, even if someone is laid off, he will be able to find work somewhere.
Over the past few years, medical school graduates nationally have opted in increasing numbers to pursue careers in lucrative sub-specialties such as dermatology instead of in lower-paying areas such as primary care. (The Association of American Medical Colleges projects that the United States will encounter a physician deficit of 55,000 to 200,000 relative to demand by 2020.)
Still, Angoff estimated that about 50 percent of this year’s class will be doing a year of independent research — a figure consistent with past years — instead of immediately entering into a residency program.
“Most of our students are doing a wholly funded year of research or pursing a joint degree,” she said. “It’s part of the culture here.”
Independent research experience stands out on applications for competitive residency programs, said Joseph Boonsiri ’05 MED ’09, who will spend next year in New Haven doing research.
Nevertheless, medical students are not entirely insulated from the economic decline.
On the one hand, Angoff said, the economic downturn likely had little impact on the actual matching process. On the other, she emphasized that economic factors do influence some medical students’ choice of speciality.
“There are some students — and this isn’t unique to Yale — that are carrying a huge amount of debt when they graduate,” she said. “They do sometimes need to make decisions based on that and thoughts about their earning potential over time.”
Now, even students with moderate debt loads are worried about the distinct possibility that interest rates could rise sharply in the near future, Hunter said, adding that a rise in interests rates could push people into higher-paying residencies.
But graduates from Yale’s medical school do not benefit solely from the strength of Yale’s medical program — they are also at an advantage because of its unique philosophy, students interviewed said.
The School of Medicine, which has an incoming class of just 100 students, is a rarity among medical schools because it does not rank its students. Instead, Angoff said, it focuses on developing leaders and teaching its students how to learn as opposed to pushing them to learn for the sake of rank or grades.
She added that Yale’s approach makes its graduates highly effective residents because it trains them to learn for the sake of delivering better care to their patients.
“Our students, once they graduate and become residents, are extremely successful,” Angoff said. “They become leaders, teachers and are often asked to become chief residents.”
This year, 29,890 applicants participated in Match Day, making it the largest Match Day since the National Resident Matching Program was founded in 1952.