Yesterday was the official Match Day for Medical Students across the country. Every year on the third Friday of March at a pre-determined time, Med students receive a hand-delivered envelope and simultaneously learn where they will be spending the next few years of their life. Will their Residency be in Atlanta? New York? Los Angeles? Their future lies in that envelope. (Residency is the next step after Medical School and can take 3-6 years depending on your area of practice, e.g. Plastic Surgery, Pediatrics, Anesthesia, etc). On the Monday before Match Day students receive a letter just letting them know whether or not they’ve matched to a residency program, but it doesn’t say which one they’ve matched to (they have to wait until Friday for that – so four days of nerves and excitement).
Students who are informed on Monday that they have NOT matched have to participate in what’s called The Scramble. Since some residency programs will still have a few spaces open, unmatched students have to immediately call & apply to try to get those spots. Unfortunately the spot that they get may be in a different area of practice than they originally wanted. And for unmatched students who are also unsuccessful in the scramble – well, they will just have to try the whole process again next year. They can use the year to join medical research programs or earn a Masters degree – anything that will make them look more attractive when they apply again.
So how do students get matched to residency programs in the first place? It’s all based on Mathematical Algorithms. An Algorithm is defined by Merriam-Webster as a procedure for solving a mathematical problem (as of finding the greatest common divisor) in a finite number of steps that frequently involves repetition of an operation.
Per the National Resident Matching Program (NRMP) website:
“The process begins with an attempt to match an applicant to the program most preferred on that applicant’s rank order list (ROL). If the applicant cannot be matched to that first choice program, an attempt is made to place the applicant into the second choice program, and so on, until the applicant obtains a tentative match or all the applicant's choices on the ROL have been exhausted.”
Also, did you know that you can participate in the resident matching program as a couple?: “Partners listed as a couple are treated by the matching algorithm solely as a couple. If they do not obtain a match as a couple, the algorithm will not process their lists separately to find a possible match for each individual.” If you would like more details on how the matching process & algorithm work, check out this pdf from the NRMP website. Interesting stuff!
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I was watching Friday Night Lights on TV today. Excellent movie profiling the "economically depressed town of Odessa, Texas and their heroic high school football team, the Permian Panthers" - (IMDB). At the end of the regular football season, there is a 3-way tie between the Panthers and 2 other teams. The coach from each team has to participate in a coin toss to see which 2 out of the 3 teams will compete against each other for a spot in the playoffs. Just in case you haven't seen the movie I won't spoil it any further - but as I was watching this scene I couldn't help but think of some fun Friday Night Lights-inspired probability questions. Here’s one:
Question: If three football coaches each toss one fair coin in succession, what is the probability that at least one of these coins will land on tails?
Solution: Read the question very carefully and make sure you understand what it is asking. Let’s break it down step by step. Let T=tails and H=heads.
Between the three coaches, 1 tail, 2 tails, or 3 tails can be tossed. (Note: we do not care about the circumstance that no tails are tossed because the question specifically asks us to find the probability that AT LEAST one tail is tossed).
If one tail is tossed, it could be the first, second or third coach that made that toss. In other words, there are 3 different options/orders for one tail being tossed:
THH, HTH, HHT
If two tails are tossed, there are three possible combinations for that as well:
TTH, THT, HTT
And if three tails are tossed, there is only one possibility: TTT. Therefore, there are 7 different ways that at least 1 tail can be tossed between the three coaches. Now we need to find the probability of each of these 7 different combinations and then add them all together.
-The probability of flipping a tail is ½ and the probability of flipping a head is ½
-Because coin tosses are independent (the result of a coin toss (heads/tails) doesn’t depend on the result of the previous coin toss or on any other factors) we can multiply the probabilities together.
In other words, the probability of THH = (1/2)(1/2)(1/2) = 1/8. The probability of each of the other 6 combinations is also going to be 1/8. So if we add all 7 of these up we get 7/8, which is the answer.
Note: I know this may be a little complicated but the more you practice and become familiar with the different types of probability questions, the easier they will become.
This week The College Board announced that there will be major changes to the SAT starting in Spring 2016. What gives? As far back as I can remember, the SAT has been a test associated with questions full of enigmas and tricks – test preparation books are designed around this. But what does all of this trickery really have to do with current high school course work? How does it relate? It doesn’t.
College Board President & CEO David Coleman stated that the current SAT exam is "far too disconnected from the work of our high schools". The new SAT exam will be more focused on students justifying their answers and "no longer will it be good enough to focus on tricks and trying to eliminate answer choices," Coleman said. The total score will also go from 2400 back to 1600 - what it was way back when I took the exam :-) Here are a few more key changes to the new exam:
These are just some of the changes. Be sure to check out the official College Board announcement for a more detailed list.
I came across this story today and I thought it was quite interesting. For the first time in history, Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business has stripped former graduate Matthew Martoma of his MBA degree. Yikes!
Some quick Stanford facts: the MBA tuition at Stanford is $185K (highest in the world) and it will keep increasing. As of 2014, Stanford business school is tied with Harvard Business School as the #1 ranked MBA program.
So what happened? Here’s the story in a nutshell – I will do my best to sum it up: Matthew Martoma graduated from Duke University in 1995 where he received a B.S. in Biomedics, Ethics, and Public Policy. He then went on to attend Harvard Law School where he excelled during his first year and a half. So far, so good.
He went home for Christmas and decided to change a few of the B and B+ grades on his transcript to A’s to show his parents so they would be proud of him. (Parents: It’s great to encourage your children and expect the best from them, but never to the point that they feel the need to doctor their transcripts). His parents were happy to see his great grades, but he later admitted the truth to them and proceeded to show them his real transcript. Ok. Great.
Here’s where things get weird: It was time to apply for clerkships (where law students practice law under the guidance of a judge), but he left all of his materials at his house and had already left home. So, according to him, he asked his brother to assemble his materials for him. Apparently he left his fake transcript in plain sight, and the real one in a drawer, and his brother, not knowing a fake one even existed, made copies of the fake one and packaged all of the materials which were sent out to 23 different judges. Upon reviewing his materials, a clerk in one of the judicial offices that Martoma applied to called Harvard to confirm the grades on the transcript (things are ALWAYS confirmed) which obviously led to Harvard finding out that he committed fraud by doctoring his transcripts and sending them out.
At first Martoma blamed it on his brother for sending the wrong transcript, then he said it was all a big joke and he didn’t seriously intend to apply for clerkships, then he proceeded to weave a very tangled web full of lies. For instance, he said that he sent an email on a certain day at a certain time, then when asked to show evidence of this, he said that there must have been an internet problem on that day, so the email message was queued and actually sent the next day, which was next time he turned on his computer and logged into his email. His computer had to be sent to a forensic computer specialist so they could figure out whether he was lying or telling the truth, but it was basically inconclusive. Anyways, Harvard decided to expel him.
A few years later he changed his name from Ajai Thomas to his current name, Matthew Martoma, and applied to Stanford’s business school under false pretenses: he failed to mention that he was kicked out of Harvard for disciplinary reasons. Had he told the truth he would definitely NOT have been admitted to Stanford. Two years later in 2003, Martoma graduated from Stanford and received his MBA. Flash forward eleven years to present day: Stanford has realized the truth and revokes his degree a few days ago. Wait - I left out a big part:
The reason Stanford was even investigating him in the first place was because he was convicted of insider trading charges ($276 million worth) on February 6, 2014 and everything started coming to light, including his name change, his expulsion from Harvard, etc. Stanford sent him a letter asking him for an explanation of his falsified application to their business school, to which he ultimately never responded to, so they decided to revoke his degree. They have made it clear that this has nothing to do with his insider trading charges, and only with the fact that he lied to get accepted into Stanford.
Should Martoma be allowed to keep his degree? After all, even though he was admitted under false pretenses, he did successfully complete the coursework and graduate from the #1 business school in the world. No easy feat. And let’s not forget about the tuition he paid to attend. Will he get a refund? Nope!
Or does he deserve to get his degree revoked? He has committed fraud at Harvard, Stanford, and at his current position. And these are just things that we know of. It's like that saying goes: "the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior". Clearly he is extremely unethical, which is ironic because he received a degree in Ethics from Duke and co-founded the Society of Law and Ethics at Harvard! What?! (This could lead to a whole other discussion, but I will save that for another time).
Or is it Stanford’s fault for not doing their due diligence and thoroughly screening all admitted applicants?