The time of residency application is near, and this is one of the most commonly asked questions by IMGs “Will I match this year?” Considering the confusion and stress associated with this match, I have decided to write this blog to guide you on how to increase your chances of Residency Match this year.
This year’s deadline for residency application is October 21st, 2020. By the time many of you will read this blog, October 21st will be over, and the interview season will begin. Now if you are an IMG, you don’t have enough time left to make drastic changes at this moment. What you can do are the following strategies that will increase your chances of matching.
THE TRIANGLE OF RESIDENCY:
I have discussed this again and again and will emphasize it one more time. To make sure you have completed of what I call as your “triangle of residency”. What is the triangle of residency? A triangle as we all know has three corners. This triangle of residency is not too different, it also has the three corners. The first corner is your USMLEs, the step exams. The second triangle is your US clinical experience, while the third triangle is your research experience or publications. Therefore, make sure that you have these three things taken care of.
US CLINICAL EXPERIENCE:
If you already have some US clinical experience, then it is wonderful. However, if you don’t have it yet, and you are applying for the US residency match, then you should start some kind of US clinical experience now. How can you do it? Call nearby hospitals, or non-profit treatment facilities or rehabilitation centers. Non-profit organizations are always looking for volunteers. This approach can give you an opportunity of volunteering as well as some clinical experience. If you are more inclined towards psychiatry residency then contact non-profit drug addiction treatment facilities, they are always looking for volunteers. They will teach you counseling and will also provide you with ample clinical experience. This counseling as a volunteer under a supervisor will be counted as a clinical experience.
Call as many hospitals as possible near you and just tell them your situation what you want and why you want it. They will provide you with the opportunity.
Now, I know some self-proclaimed experts will start criticizing this blog and me by saying that the US clinical experience in a non-residency program doesn’t help much. This is not true, it helps tremendously. The real thing is the knowledge and experience. You can get knowledge and experience anywhere. The knowledge and experience will help your application. Remember, it is true that clinical experience at a residency program really is the best thing you can get, but something is always better than nothing. Many residency directors know that it is not easy to find such opportunities therefore, they will appreciate your efforts and will see you with respect and consider you for interview because of your learning attitude. Of course, not every residency program will like you, and you are also not there to be accepted by all the programs. You just need one yes. Remember, you just need one yes. Therefore, your efforts of volunteering and finding clinical experience opportunities will help your application even at this stage.
Moreover, if you cannot afford to travel and still want US clinical experience then there are Tele-rotation (Telemedicine) opportunities. These are useful rotations that you can enjoy sitting home and get some contacts as well.
RESEARCH EXPERIENCE AND PUBLICATIONS:
Now if you already have publications as first author, then I congratulate you. You are in a very good position to apply for the residency match this year. However, if you don’t have publications then you can start working on remote research projects and online training programs like the one we offer “Be a Published Author Program” and learn to write and write an article side by side and eventually get it published. Yes, you can become a published author sitting home. In these opportunities you usually get a chance to write a systematic reviews, which can be an outstanding addition to your CV because systematic reviews are the strongest research evidence in the world according to the Evidence Pyramid of Research. The residency directors will appreciate your hard work and your article.
There are certain points you need to be careful about, however. The first thing is, there is a lot publication related fraud now a days, some people charge you and add your name in a publication without you working hard. This is like buying or purchasing your name in a publication. It is not ethical and not moral. This is a serious offense and can be a career ending offense if discovered. Remember, these kinds of actions are not remained hidden, these things are exposed. An experienced residency director can easily tell if you purchased the paper or you really worked hard on it. Therefore, purchasing publication can harm your career. Remember, just ask yourself before engaging in anything, “Is it a right thing to do?” If the answer is “No”, then don’t do it.
You have another option to get some research experience. You can join any lab even right now. It is not too late yet. You can show some kind of research experience on your CV in this way. However, getting a publication in a few months is not always possible. You can start contacting university labs near you to let you volunteer. It is far easier to find a volunteer job, then finding a paid job. Don’t run after a paid job right now, focus on improving your CV even if it is an unpaid position.
If you have not taken STEP 3 yet and you feel you can do it and are already ECFMG certified, then go ahead and take STEP 3 as soon as possible. If you can get STEP 3 done by November or by December, you will be in a very strong position to impress the residency directors and who knows this also gets you some more interviews, just by word of mouth. You never know.
- Take some certificate courses and add them on your CV
- Prepare for Interviews with friends and family and do a mock interview
- Write blogs online on your specialty- a short blog on Congestive Heart Failure can impress the residency directors- we will publish that on our website for free.
It is not too late yet. You can still make improvements in your CV and increase your chances of matching. Remember, it’s never too late. What is the worse? you don’t match this year, right? Remember, life is not over, you can come back strong next year. I wish you best of luck for your residency match.
Dr. Hassaan Tohid
Senior Editor of the Book by
International Medical Graduates in the United States: A Complete Guide to Challenges and Solutions