By Fady Akladios
As I pointed out in my previous post, Going to America: the IMG Journey, there are some important questions to consider as an international medical graduate seeking postgraduate training in the US. IMGs tend to fall into one of four main categories, each of which highlights some relevant factors to consider when answering the five questions I listed.
Recent medical graduates: You just graduated from a medical school in your home country. As an applicant from this category, one of the big ‘whys’ is that you have fresh medical knowledge and lots of energy to surpass the many hurdles you may encounter along the way. One of the difficulties for this group is that you are fully immersed in the study of medicine in your country, and you may find it challenging to plan to finish your USMLE exams and to submit ERAS application on time.
IMG’s who completed residency/training: You completed residency training in your country and are considering a career in the US. In virtually all cases, you will have to repeat a residency-training program, but you might be able to finish it in a shorter period of time (depends on the specialty and regulations set out by their boards). Since you have more experience under your belt, you are readier than other applicants in terms of doing your work during residency. However, you might find it difficult to go through the medical hierarchy again, and to re-experience the intern year. To make things easier, always keep your goals in sight and understand that these difficulties are just minor bumps along the way.
Expert physicians: Not only are you a licensed physician in your country, but you’ve gained recognition there, too. However, you feel that you have not achieved your personal goals at home and would like to pursue these goals in the US instead. If you belong to this group, you are most probably on the older side of the applicant pool and have commitments to a spouse and kid(s). Consequently, you need to have a concrete and detailed plan, with a realistic timeline of when you will finish all your exams and application material. You also need to make sure that your personal goals are feasible in the US and are worth leaving all that you have already accomplished. Contact the programs you are interested in, discuss your goals, and see if they can help you achieve them.
Applicants with previous exposure/training in the US: You finished medical school, found an opportunity to pursue a medically related position in the US (i.e. research position, clerkships, externships, etc…), and you are now thinking of pursuing a residency here too. Your experience makes you a very strong applicant, and you most likely already started working on your USMLE exams before or during your position. Having that experience not only makes your application stronger, but it also ensures that you are accustomed to US culture and American workplace attitudes. Use your experience as a way of gauging your ultimate goal after residency (staying in the US. vs. going home).
In my next post, I will attempt to present an example of how an IMG with certain goals can answer the five questions from my previous post. I will also present a general timeline for IMG applicants with respect to completing your USMLE exams and ERAS application material.