You can never forget Residency Match.

I know I can’t. It’s very stressful, nerve-wrecking, and changes your life. Once it’s over, it’s very relieving.

And just as you never want to go through it or hear the words ERAS or NRMP ever again, you may hear your DrSpouse say to you:

“I’m thinking about doing more training….”

If this is what’s happened, don’t worry, you got this! I KNOW you can go through another Match and do it again!

How Residency And Fellowship Matches Differ

You may not know this, but:


We’ve been through Fellowship Match for Gastroenterology. And we discovered it was a whole new world than Internal Medicine Residency Match.

When my husband was matching for Internal Medicine Residency, these were super important:

  • Med school grades
  • USMLE board scores (i.e. Step 1, 2, 3)

When he was matching for Gastroenterology Fellowship, grades and board scores were still important but they were mostly used for cutoff. Instead, other factors became far more important:

  • Pedigree (where he trained)
  • Quality of research
  • Who he knows (or better yet, who knows him!)

What Should Your Dr Spouse Do?

If your DrSpouse is still in medical school, rank residency programs high that have an in-house fellowship in the specialty he’s interested in. Also, try to rank residency programs high that are academic, not community-based.

If your DrSpouse has already completed (or is in) residency, he can’t change where he trained or his board scores. Don’t dwell in the past. But, he can still focus on what he can change. If this is where he’s at, this is the focus of this article.

5 Ways To Be A Stellar Fellowship Candidate

1. Do quality research.

Research is going to be hugely important for his CV. And you better believe the sky is the limit on this one because there are MD/PhD candidates and those with prior research careers who blow this out of the water. Focus on quality over quantity:

  • First author > second author
  • Unique research > case reports
2. Write an impeccable CV.

Writers of his letters of recommendation will use his CV to base their letters off of. If it’s incomplete, his writers will have a harder time writing great letters. Or if it’s not in the right academic format, he will look amateur.

Also, make sure he uses the correct format used at prestigious training hospitals. (For example, ever wonder if his publications should go under Research or Work Experience? Don’t mix the two.)

3. Have his program director and mentors go to bat for him. (This is the most important one.)

Have him ask his Program Director (PD) and mentors where they trained and where they know people. Apply to where his PD trained at and where his PD’s closest colleagues (aka besties) are. That’s where his PD will have the most clout. Most importantly, if there is one takeaway of this entire article, it’s this: have his PD and mentors call for him, praising him as if he can walk on water. Particularly if his PD is known, well-regarded, and trusted, this could be the phone call that changes everything.

4. Apply broadly and smartly.

Applying to every single program could cost you $4000+ just for the privilege of applying to them, and that’s before the expenses of traveling to them. If your pockets are bottomless, go ahead and apply to all of them. But if you are under a budget, you have to apply smartly yet also broadly.

Here are some guidelines on where his chances are best:

  1. Apply to the fellowship at the same institution, if it exists.
  2. Apply where his PD has connections.
  3. Apply to the geographical places near you.
  4. If he is a weaker or IMG (international medical graduate) candidate with visa issues, identify and focus on community and rural programs.

In short, apply to as many as you can afford but also be wise about it.

5. Write a story-telling personal statement.

All statements are going to be perfect in spelling and grammar. After all, they’re written by doctors who excel at those details.

But after reading through a hundred of them, programs won’t remember them as they all blur together. They ALL say, “I really enjoyed my rotation in that subspecialty and that’s when I found out I want to sub-specialize in it.” Zzzzzzzzz…

Instead, he has to hold the reader’s attention on every word to the end and be memorable. Storytelling is a specialized writing skill that people don’t acquire in English 101. Make sure he has a writer experienced in areas like advertising, non-fiction, or copywriting to review his statement for him.

Let’s Review

  1. Do quality research.
  2. Write an impeccable CV.
  3. Have his Program Director and mentors go to bat for him.
  4. Apply broadly and smartly.
  5. Write a story-telling statement.

In Summary

After going through the Fellowship Match for Gastroenterology, we found that residency and fellowship match are very different. While the nervousness and jitters are the same, the criteria that programs use are different.

If your DrSpouse knows what fellowship programs are looking for, he can focus on them to increase his chances of matching.

Above all, the most IMPORTANT takeaway is to make sure his Program Director and mentors call for him. That one phone call could change his life.

Best of luck to you and your DrSpouse on the journey to subspecializing!

To stronger medical families,


Your Turn

Did I miss anything else that helped your DrSpouse match into fellowship?