By Fady Akladios
As an IMG who has been through the residency application process in the US, I have learned the importance having US clinical experience (USCE) firsthand. I have almost always been asked the same question in every single interview: “where have you done rotations in the US?”
Having USCE not only gives you more exposure to the health system in this country, but it also gives you more of an edge as an applicant by enabling you to meet program directors and obtain letters of recommendation from American programs.
However, obtaining a USCE can be unexpectedly challenging for IMG’s. As a somewhat naïve third year medical student, I did not imagine how complicated it would be to secure a few clinical electives in the US. I will outline a few hints/pointers that IMGs should be aware of before applying to clinical electives here:
- Any hospital in the US can offer clinical electives. Make sure the hospital has a residency in the same specialty of the clinical elective you are seeking. If that is not the case, your clinical experience will carry much less weight on your ERAS application.
- Most hospitals will require you to submit your application for electives about five to nine months in advance. You need to start thinking about where you want to go about a year in advance so you can finalize your USCE applications in time
- The applications tend to be lengthy and require a lot of paperwork. You will almost always need documentation of your vaccination and medical history from a healthcare professional, a background check, a letter from your dean, and copies of your USMLE scores.
- Apply smart. Apply to programs that have taken IMGs into their residency programs in the past (most programs will have a listing of their residents on their websites). This increases your chances of securing that USCE as an IMG, increases the likelihood of getting a strong letter of recommendation, and improves your chances of matching in this program if you decide on it later.
- USCE applications cost money and time (especially money). Avoid spending money unnecessarily by following point four above as much as possible.
- There are a lot of services out there that cater to IMGs with the promise to secure US clinical electives. Having dealt with a couple of these organizations firsthand, I would definitely advise you to avoid using them unless all other methods have failed. These services are typically not clear on the nature of the programs you will be placed into, the quality of the educational programs, etc… Plus, they cost much more than you would spend if you applied to each program yourself.
I am sure there are many more hints and pointers to give on this topic, but the ones above are the important ones I wanted to communicate to you. If you have any questions, please leave them for me in the comments below.