Dr. Donna Lamb, DHSc, MBA, BSN is many things. She’s currently the head of the National Resident Matching Program (NRMP), which assigns residencies to medical school graduates with matching skill sets, and she also happens to be a nurse. But critics say she isn’t qualified to oversee the program because she doesn’t understand what medical graduates are going through.
The NRMP erupted in controversy earlier this year when it nixed a proposal for a two-day matching process after three months of gathering feedback from the public, medical students, and educators. Sixty percent of those surveyed approved of the proposal.
Lamb recently sat down with Medscape to discuss her background as a nurse and its effect on her new role. She worked as a trauma intensive care, cardiovascular intensive care, and neonatal intensive care nurse for most of her hospital career but she decided to pursue more of a nine-to-five job after she gave birth to her first child. She started working for an invasive cardiologist, running lab work and assisting in the operating room.
“That was a really great experience and really taught me a lot in terms of critical thinking, from the way a physician thinks and how they go through different diagnoses to get to the treatment of a patient,” she said of the experience.
She went on to get a master’s degree in business administration before returning to the hospital as an administrator, where she learned how to run different departments in the hospital.
Lamb explained that she originally wanted to be a surgeon but her parents didn’t have enough money to send her to medical school, so she dual enrolled in nursing school while she was still in high school.
When asked about the criticism over her lack of experience as a physician, she defended herself by saying she isn’t the only one making the decisions.
“It doesn’t take a physician to run an organization. I’m leading the day-to-day operations of the organization. But this organization is governed by a board of 19 individuals; 13 of those are physicians, and so there is physician leadership,” she stated. “There are deans, vice deans, medical student advisors, program directors. There are faculty members. We also have medical students, residents, and fellows on the board.”
She also reflected on the organization’s efforts to simplify the resident matching program.
As for the proposed two-day matching process, “That proposal, although it was not adopted in its current form, has not died,” Ms. Lamb said.
“We are going to continue to look at what’s good in that proposal that we can use and that we can potentially innovate on further to improve the process. We’ve also been asked to look at whether or not we would be willing to wrap some policies around the interview period.”
“We’re going to look at how we create more transparency from programs [revealing] exactly what they are looking for. How are students and other applicants supposed to know whether or not they’re eligible for a program or whether they’re the type of applicant a program is looking for? And then, where we see community buy-in and where we see a benefit to applicants and programs, we will implement those changes.”