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Things IMGs Can Do to Improve Their Chance of US Residency Matching

7 min


An IMG resident holding a globe.


5 Things IMGs Can Do to Get into a US Residency Program


Applying for residency is a stressful process with much that feels out of the applicant’s control. In truth however, there are some very important actions that can be taken to maximize your chances for success. For international medical graduates (IMGs), the road can be a bit more challenging, so it is particularly important to do everything possible to increase the potential for a positive match outcome. We will review the 5 things IMGs can do to improve their chances in the residency match.


1) Maximize Clinical Time in the United States

One of the best ways to improve your chances of matching in a US residency is to spend time working in this setting while in medical school. Though restrictions at various international schools will vary based on program, many will allow their students to complete elective rotations in the US. These experiences can be essential for introducing yourself to the decision makers at these programs. As important, if not more so, is the potential to make connections at these US sites who can serve as letter writers for your application. As we discuss in in our other blog posts, letters of recommendation from physicians in the field in which you are applying are essential to helping your chances of matching.


2) Research

Another way to distinguish yourself from the field is to engage in meaningful research. Most students do not have time for basic science research while in clinical years, so clinical research is the most common avenue. That being said, if you have the ability to take a year (or more) to dedicate to basic science research, it can play a huge role in helping your application. The research does not necessarily need to be in the field in which you are applying, but if it relates in some way, that certainly can help. It also will afford you the opportunity to make connections in the field, which again can open doors for future clinical opportunities.


3) Attend (and Present at) conferences

Although the COVID-19 pandemic has significantly altered the way we attend conferences, these meetings are unique experiences to meet many decision-makers all at once. If your desired specialty has a major annual national or international conference, make sure to attend it. Better yet, submit an abstract so you can present at the conference. These are wonderful opportunities for ambitious medical students to make residency contacts that can make a huge difference for their applications. What better way to demonstrate your abilities than by sharing your hard work and critical thinking with a room (virtual or in-person) full of decision-makers from US residencies. If you are particularly interested in a certain program, reach out to attendees of the conference from that program and invite them to come listen to your talk.


4) Make Contacts

As is a theme, the keys to increasing your chances of matching are closely tied to your ability to make contacts at the programs or in the field in which you are interested. Cold calling or emailing can be a daunting, and may have mixed results, but is a way to start. More successful strategies involve a shared mutual contact making an introduction (including a current resident you may have met) or a connection made professionally, such as during a conference (above) or through research (above that). Once you make a contact, you have to water it like a plant – reach out periodically with questions or updates so that these contacts can bloom into potential future mentors or sponsors.


5) Do Well on Your Exams

There is no way around the truth that performance on the USMLE Step 1 and Step 2 CK examinations is critical to your ability to successfully match. These are opportunities to level the playing field with non-IMGs – success on these exams relative to US graduates can be huge difference makers. Use the EMP resource website to construct a study plan for both tests and make sure you do as well as possible. If you are looking for an added edge, consider working with a personal tutor like me!


Good Luck!!!

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