By Sarah Wesley
Recently, a number of sources have raised the concern that match statistics were worse for IMGs this year, including particular alarmism about the few Family Med and Pediatric spots that went to IMGs and DOs. In particular, these sources have caused a great deal of angst as people have conjectured that this year’s primary care stats may reflect a general trend for the future involving all types of residency programs. I wish to address the error of reading into isolated statistics, with the hope that my viewpoint will ease the minds of international medical school graduates minds and encourage them to continue applying to residencies in the US.
How Did IMGs do in the Match?
The first discrepancy I’d like to address is the misconception that IMGs did not do as well in the match this year. In fact, the overall percentage of matched IMGs actually increased by about 5 percent for both US citizen IMGs and non-US citizen IMGs.
In terms of the focus on primary care statistics, it is important to note that the numbers lump all independent applicants into one group to include DOs and IMGs of all citizenships. It is impossible to make generalizations from this diverse group of people based on statistics. The U.S. has a medical training system that lures internationals for some primary care training but also for a lot of subspecialty training. Their Match numbers simply cannot be equated with those of osteopathic grads, as the field is traditionally more primary care oriented. So, saying that a low number of “independent applicants” matched to family medicine is misleading, because you need to look at the different groups separately.
Furthermore, even if IMG rates were low this year, it is conceivable that people did not match because they were not qualified, not because of some prejudice against IMGs, and that next year’s group of applicants will be more qualified and increase the success rate.
Do U.S. Residency Programs Welcome IMGs?
The second issue I’d like to address involves the claim that unfavorable odds will continue in future years. Yes, at the end of the day, the majority of programs are designed to ensure that US grads have jobs, but that has always been the case. However, in a system that relies on nearly 40 percent non-American grads, the strength of an IMG’s application, his or her mastery of the English language, and that individual’s interviewing skills are going to trump a foreign medical degree.
Hospitals, particularly in multicultural urban centers actually recruit doctors with additional language and cultural skills to enhance patient care. And if I were to make my own projections, I would venture that people with these skills are actually going to be more and more sought after as the US becomes increasingly diverse.
With the Affordable Care Act, there will be an expansion of primary care and preventative medicine, which will perhaps be more reflected in future years with a waxing of the number of spots for all types of applicants vying for these positions. In 2015, there are predicted to be more US grads than there are residency spots, which appears to be a point that is used as an ominous sign for IMGs applying to the US…but, no one seems to be mentioning that there will also be an increase in the number of residency positions.
What’s your take on this issue? Let us know in the comments below.