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What Does it Mean to be an “International Medical Graduate” – And How Can You Secure Your Path to Residency as an IMG?

Students attending medical school outside their home country are often concerned about how being international medical graduates will be perceived as they embark upon the process of securing residencies and internships.

However, the residency match process does not have to be arduous or worrisome for International Medical Graduates (IMGs). For students studying at the Medical School for International Health (MSIH), the pathway to residency starts on the first day of medical school, and support is provided throughout the entire process. Advisors are available at each stage of the process, including helping to arrange North American clinical elective rotations that students will complete during the fourth year at medical centers in the US, such as Columbia University Medical Center, Hofstra University and Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

In 2021, 96% of MSIH students who participated in the US match process were matched to residency programs, often times matching at their top choice. “These results illustrate yet again how well MSIH is regarded,” said Dr. Lynne Quittell, Director of the MSIH office in New York. “The reputation of our school goes before us; hospitals know they are getting well trained, conscientious, and dedicated physicians. They are more than happy to add MSIH graduates to their staff.”

That’s not to say that it’s easy for anyone to gain a residency in the US. There are steps that all medical students, including MSIH students, should take to give them the best chance of successfully matching for residency:

1. Pass the USMLE

All physicians who want to practice medicine in the US are required to pass the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE). MSIH helps students by providing a USMLE Preparation Series, which breaks down high-yield USMLE-style questions.  In addition, examinations throughout the first two years are shelf exams, exams written by the same people who write the USMLE, allowing the students to become accustomed to this type of testing.

2. Conduct research 

Research experience enriches your application, and depending on the field may have a very positive impact on your residency application. At MSIH, all students are required to do research, and research areas vary from basic bio-medical sciences, clinical, medical ethics, medical education, epidemiology, global health, and beyond.  An assigned faculty advisor assists students in identifying a research mentor and project.  

3. Become involved in extracurricular activities

In addition, students have the opportunity to volunteer both at the hospital and in the community, teaching English to Bedouin students or becoming involved in the Teddy Bear Project, which aims to alleviate children’s anxieties regarding medical care in hospitals. Their are also many opportunities to become involved with MSIH Student Council, as Curriculum Representatives, Global Health Representatives, Minority Affairs Representatives, Volunteer Coordinators, External Affairs Representatives, and on the Ethics Judiciary Committee. There are also many interest groups, including the Palliative Care Interest Group, the Surgery Interest Group and the Women’s Health Interest Group, just to name a few. 

4. Complete electives in the US and Canada

Completing electives and sub-internships at institutions in the United States and Canada can also help with gaining a residency in the US. Every MSIH student starts their fourth year with 16 weeks of clinical elective rotations. MSIH students are given priority consideration at selective medical centers in the United States, such as Columbia University Medical Center, Mount Sinai Medical Center, and Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell, due to our relationships with these institutions.

5. Don’t limit your options

It is important to cast a wide net. If you rank a broad range of programs across the United States –– especially in underserved and rural areas –– you will have a greater chance of securing a residency in your chosen field. This is particularly true if you are interested in a highly competitive field. Throughout the third and fourth year, MSIH holds several sessions with the students, providing tips on how to select the right programs to apply to, as well as how to prepare for electives and interviews. These sessions are led by physicians and faculty who are based in both Israel and the US. We also prepare our students for the residency match process by having each student meet to discuss best practices for interviews. Students receive one-on-one counseling from a faculty electives advisor.

6. Network with MSIH alumni

The MSIH Alumni Association provides opportunities to connect with MSIH alumni who support current students during this process. During their second year, each MSIH student is paired with an alumnus whose interests align with their own, and they are given career, electives and residency advice from these alumni. Third year students receive access to the MSIH Alumni Facebook group, which consists of more than 300 alumni as members.

7. Complete a self-assessment

Being able to compile a realistic list of the residencies in which you are likely to match may help you decide which program to apply to. The Association of American Medical College (AAMC) has tools on its website that allow students to complete a self-assessment of the likelihood of matching into residency programs based on academic record,  and competitiveness of the field of medicine. The Israel administration also provides guidance on residencies, along with access to AAMC resources. This topic is also covered in more depth during MSIH’s residency orientation.

For more information and guidance on studying at MSIH, what it means to be an international medical graduate, and how to secure a residency placement in the US, reach out to connect with a member of our admissions team.

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