An Introduction to the Veterinary Internship and Residency Match Program

The Veterinary Internship and Residency Match Program (VIRMP) is the mechanism by which the majority of programs identify applicants and applicants identify and apply to programs.  There are a lot of details and nuance in the system, but I want to introduce you to the most basic principles which are essential for you to be successful. Here are the important points.

The VIRMP is run by the American Association of Veterinary Clinicians.  The AAVC’s general mission is to improve clinical veterinary medicine. They have two members on the AVMA’s House of Delegates, so they are an integral part of organized veterinary medicine.  As far as I can tell, the most important thing the AAVC does is run the VIRMP. The AAVC derives its authority from the VIRMP being the system which most programs use. Programs are not required to use the VIRMP.

Besides the VIRMP, equine practitioners commonly use AAEP’s system of identifying internships.  Ophthalmologists use their own system for matching residents, the Ophthalmology Resident Choosing Associations (ORCA).  In addition, some programs may be outside the match and advertise online or in various publications. Most programs, though, use the VIRMP.

The VIRMP is similar to residency matching in human medicine and pharmacy.  Programs enter their details into the system in August-September. By mid-October, all entries are done and applicants can search to see what programs are available.  Applicants then submit a single application to the VIRMP by early December. All programs have similar application requirements, so no personalization for individual programs is necessary or even allowed.

Your application consists of a letter of intent, CV, transcript, and letters of recommendation.  The letters of recommendation are “Standardized Letters of Recommendation (SLORs)” because they are structured such that recommenders answer a series of questions about the applicant, and then provide free-text information about the applicant. This same letter is then submitted to all the programs to which you apply.

Once applications are received by the programs, they review all of the applicants.  Some programs may do interviews in December and January. Then the program determines their rank list.  Simultaneously, the applicant ranks the programs in order of the program they most want to attend to the least.  These lists are due in mid-January. At this point, you pay a fee according to the number of programs you rank.

From there, the system engages in a complex algorithm to match applicants and programs such that everyone gets the best possible position for themselves.  As mentioned before, don’t try to game the system. The applicants rank their favorite places and the programs rank their favorite applicants.  These results come out in February. If you matched, congratulations- that is where you are going. If you did not match, then you engage in the travesty of a system which is The Scramble.

There are a couple of wrinkles to the matching program.  One is that you and your partner can apply as a couple. In this case, the VIRMP will only match you if you both match to a single program.  The other is that you can submit simultaneously for a residency and for an internship. In this case, you will have two separate applications: one for residencies and one for internships.  You rank the residencies and rank the internships separately. The system first tries to place you in a residency. If you are not successful, it will automatically enter you into the internship system.

Once your application is in the system in December, you have a few options available.  You can not rank any institutions. Maybe you changed your mind about what you want to do with your career, or you already got a job offer.  In this case, it doesn’t matter that you put in an application. Just don’t rank any institutions and you won’t get matched. You can rank institutions and then go wherever you are matched.  This is the expected outcome.  

Finally, you can rank institutions and then NOT go where you are matched.  This is unprofessional and seriously frowned upon. Doing this causes a serious problem for the program, because now they have an unfilled position and may have a hard time filling it.  If you drop out after you are matched, you will be blacklisted from the VIRMP for 3 years, and you may have a hard time getting letters of recommendation and ever progressing into a specialty.  Do Not Do This.
Go to the VIRMP website to find specific dates and more details.  This primer is intended to introduce you to the concept of the VIRMP.  Individual posts address various issues with the VIRMP, like choosing programs, ranking programs, and getting letters of recommendation.  What questions do you have about the matching program?

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