Question: I know that for the residency match, two people can opt to enroll in the Couples Match. However, this is not an option for couples who are not in the same class. Also, this is generally not possible for a couple trying to match into different fellowships. How much consideration do you give to the fact that an applicant is trying to move to San Francisco to be with their husband/wife?
Answer: This is a great question and something we are seeing more and more, in part I think because many young physicians are marrying other physicians. In general, once the person is here interviewing it is nice to hear that they have “significant other” reasons to be in the San Francisco Bay Area as that means they are likely to be enthusiastic about training here which is something we value. Having such family and friends in the area also means that the resident will have a support system when they arrive which is also a positive.
However, when the scores are assigned by the resident recruitment and selection committee to each applicant these family and social factors are often not factored in an important way. Most often either the person has the academic credentials to be in a matching rank position or they don’t. The reason many programs take this approach is that they dont want to penalize an otherwise strong applicant who doesn’t have a geographic need to be here compared to another applicant that does have a significant other in the area.
As a Program Director it is heartbreaking to see a couple not end up at the same place. On the other hand, if residency programs made rank decisions based on need by applicants to live in area, then there would be many spots each year that would be affected by this.
For applicants that are couples but are not in the same year of the Match it is a risky proposition to have one person match in one insitution and then hope or plan that the following year the second person will match at the same hospital. This is particulary true for the competitive residencies. To help answer the question you posed I spoke to a few persons who have gone through the process. They said, for example, ” From experience I can tell you I way underestimated the difficulty of making this (couples end up at same most desired place) happen.”
For couples that are separated by a year or even two, I often advise them to take a research year/master’s year and wait to enter match together otherwise there is the real possibility that they will end up at different places to train. This happens every year which is a difficult situation for everyone especially as the applicant is bound by the NRMP agreement to go to the residency they match with.
On a last note, we know that supporting the recruitment of dual career couples is an important avenue by which universities like Stanford can attract the best and brightest talent. This issue is gaining increasing national attention for faculty as well.