Skip to Main Content

Not a competition

March 21, 2021
by Mark David Siegel

As good as any, nicer than most.

-Fred Kantor

Hi everyone,

I've always been competitive. It began decades ago in Flushing, where I spent endless afternoons with friends, playing stickball in the schoolyard, football in the park, and ping pong in the family basement. In school, we competed for high scores on math and spelling tests; we even raced to be the first to finish reading assignments. That was my world, and to this day, Heide and the girls know I play Scrabble and Monopoly to win.

Thankfully, with age, I've learned that competition isn’t everything.

Consider the residency match. On its face the match seems like a competition: applicants vie for the “best” programs and vice versa. The ranking algorithm perpetuates the notion: when it’s over, everyone asks, “how low did you go?”

But with the spring sun shining today, I’ll share a secret. The match isn’t really a competition; it’s a sorting. First, our entire rank list was populated by spectacular applicants. From top to bottom, they all had top grades and test scores, and all of them had CVs overflowing with publications and leadership accomplishments. Second, the list’s order is driven by debatable metrics: the interns who just clear our cut-point inevitably perform as well as those at the top. Moreover, this year and every year, applicants below our cut-point matched at fantastic programs, testifying to the system’s arbitrariness (or chaos).

Finally, and most importantly, applicants choose Yale because they know, like we do, that we’re right for each other. They know from the start that we offer spectacular clinical training, scholarship opportunities, and career prospects- but so do many programs. Rather, something else pulls them in.

I’m certain this year’s interns were pulled in by the core values they saw during recruitment season. They saw it in the way we’re fighting COVID. They saw it in the way we support vulnerable members of the New Haven community. They saw it in the way we celebrate our diversity of talents, interests, backgrounds, and ethnicities. They saw it in our commitment to training leaders. Above all, they saw it in our kindness: in the way we listen to one another, in the way we take pride in friends’ accomplishments, in the way we think carefully about the words we use, and in the way we treat colleagues like family. For a certain kind of resident—our residents—there’s no better place to train.

So, yes, we “won” the match competition, but it’s not because we beat other programs or harbor fantasies that we’re better than our peers. Rather, we succeeded by simply letting candidates see us for who we are, so it became abundantly clear where they should train. That’s how the match works its magic and, in that most important sense, we’re all winners.

Take care and enjoy this gorgeous Sunday, everyone,


PS: Wishing a Happy Nowruz to all our Persian friends!

PPS: Look out next weekend for our annual “Getting to Know You Message,” where the 2021-22 interns will introduce themselves.

PPPS: See our new interns’ photos attached.


Submitted by Mark David Siegel on March 21, 2021