Are you looking for an IMG friendly residency programs list for the US and Canada for 2023? Knowing what you are up against will help you figure out how to compose your CaRMS and ERAS applications, as well as how to create your residency rank order list. In this blog, we will provide you with lists of the friendliest residency programs for international medical graduates and share expert tips that will help you match your dream program!
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IMG Friendly Residency Programs in the US
Below we list the residency programs where international medical graduates make up a significant percentile of matched applicants, according to the latest NRMP data. For the United States, we divided IMGs into US IMGs and Non-US IMGs, since there are some significant differences in their application status and match chances. Now let’s dive in!
IMG Friendly Residency Programs in Canada
Our list is based on the latest CaRMS data. Unfortunately, CaRMS does not share detailed analysis of the Match, but we were able to gather enough information to compile a list of the specialties where IMG have the highest match numbers. It should be noted that according to the latest stats, 1482 IMGs participated in the Match in Canada, including the graduates of medical schools in the US, and only 446 matched. This is a matching rate of 30%. Now, let’s review the data from the R1 First Iteration Quota to see the specialties IMGs had the most success matching in Canada.
As you can see, primary care specialties remain the friendliest programs for IMGs in Canada. While IMGs are also represented in specializations, their numbers are quite low.
Which Programs Should You Pursue as an IMG?
As you can see, there are some specialties and programs that have quite a high percentage of IMG representation despite the obstacles international medical grads face when it comes to application and matching. According to the latest NRMP and CaRMS data, the friendliest programs for IMGs are primary specialities. Does it mean that you should apply only to IMG-friendly programs? Not necessarily. However, being strategic about your applications and ranking is key to increasing your chances of matching.
A lot will of course depend on your background. If you are an IMG who has extensive work experience abroad in radiology or dermatology, it would make sense if you tried to match the speciality you’re an expert in. However, if you are a recent grad of one of the Caribbean medical schools, then your choices in programs will often depend on the electives your chose, the rotations you aced during medical school, and other extracurricular experiences that helped you form as a physician in a specific medical discipline.
Remember, the key to your success is in demonstrating what makes you a perfect fit for your chosen program and speciality. Whether you do it via a residency personal statement or supporting documents like the supplemental ERAS application, make sure to showcase what prepared you for the medical training in your chosen field. How to do this best? Read on for our failproof tips on making your application stand out!
Tips for Matching Your Top Choice Residency Programs as an IMG
Interested in seeing a summary of the section below? Take a look at this infographic:
Gain Clinical Experience in the US or Canada
One of the most important experiences you should demonstrate to program committees via your residency application is clinical experience in the US or Canada. This is of course easier for US IMGs, who get medical training on US soil. However, if you are a residency applicant who graduated from a medical school abroad, you need to demonstrate that your clinical skills are up to par with US and Canadian expectations.
Why is this so important? Program directors and committees need proof that you have undergone appropriate training in patient care and interaction before you join their team. If you want to practice medicine and be a physician in these two countries, you must “test drive” their healthcare system and experience what it’s like to be a doctor there. While many medical practices are universal, there are nuances in patient interactions and practices that you must be aware of if you decide to become a doctor in the US or Canada. Hence, you should make sure to gain some clinical experience there.
If you are still in school, try looking for electives you can apply to. Some medical schools even have special exchange and elective programs with medical schools in Canada and the US, so make sure to check them out. If you are no longer in school, try looking for shadowing or volunteer experiences that can transition into clinical work.
Ace Your Licensing and OSCE Exams
Your USMLE, COMLEX, and MCCQE scores matter. According to the latest NRMP data, your USMLE Step 1 score is the number 1 factor and your USMLE Step 2 score is the number 3 factor that determine whether you will be invited to an interview. Whether you are writing the USMLE series, the COMLEX series, or the MCCQE Part 1, make sure that you give it your best possible shot. While you can retake these exams, it is best to prepare only once and ace the exam the first time. They are lengthy and stressful endeavors – you do not want to waste time retaking them.
Going back to our previous advice, there is also another huge advantage to gaining clinical experience in the US and Canada. Learning clinical practices first-hand will help you prepare for any OSCE exams you may have to complete as a residency applicant in the US or Canada. For example, if you are an IMG applying in Canada, you will need to complete the NAC OSCE to be an eligible candidate. This exam will not only test your knowledge and readiness to become a resident doctor, but also your communication skills, demeanor, body language, and more. All these things will matter for your success as a doctor!
OSCEs are another application hurdle that will help program directors and committees see that you are well-versed in medical practices in the US or Canada. If you have not had enough experience to feel confident in your practical knowledge of American and Canadian healthcare practices, you can always consider enrolling in an OSCE prep course. Remember that as an international medical grad, there might be some nuances with regards to the OSCE you should be aware of. So, make sure you learn how to prepare for an OCSE exam as an IMG to get ready.
Get Support from Professionals in the US and Canada
Support from professionals in your field is a huge boost to your confidence and your match chances. Program directors rank letters of recommendation in your specialty as the number 2 factor that affect whom the directors invite for residency interviews. While international professionals and colleagues are a great help for your residency application, having the support of American or Canadian medical professionals who have worked with you is a really big advantage.
Remember that clinical experience we strongly encourage you to get in America and Canada? Use this experience to build bonds with your supervisors and colleagues, because they can be great candidates for writing your ERAS letter of recommendation or your CaRMS reference letters. Not only will they be able to demonstrate that you are a great teammate and professional, but they will further confirm that you have the relevant experience that will help you transition to working in the US and Canada.
Demonstrate Experience in Your Chosen Speciality
Your application should demonstrate how you chose your medical specialty. What made you pursue this field of medicine and what makes you a good candidate for this field? Essentially, you want your entire application to scream that you have substantial experience and knowledge to pursue the medical specialty of your choice.
Your personal statement, residency CV, recommendations, grades in clerkships, and even MSPE should leave no doubt in the program director’s mind that you have gone to great lengths to experience the medical specialty you are applying for. Remember to use your ERAS Experience Section to emphasize relevant work, research, and volunteer experiences to showcase your expertise in your chosen field.
Most importantly, remember that just because you are an IMG and gained these experiences abroad does not mean that they are not relevant. Yes, it’s important to get some clinical exposure to American and Canadian healthcare systems, but your lived experiences in other countries are of great value! Have you taken electives in your field in your home institution? Have you participated in relevant research abroad and published your findings in another language? Have you worked in a clinic abroad in your chosen specialty? All these experiences can help you stand out as a candidate and prove to the program directors that you would be an amazing addition to their team! So don’t forget to include your international experiences in your chosen specialty when you apply!
Want to hear more about how to succeed as an IMG? Be sure to check out this video:
Ace Your Interview
Residency interview is a crucial part of the Match. According to survey conducted with residency program directors, the number one factor they consider when ranking applicants is the candidate’s interpersonal skills and interactions with faculty during the interview and visit. How you perform in the interview will directly impact your chances for matching your dream program.
IMG residency interview prep should certainly involve practice with residency interview questions. There are many common questions such as “tell me about yourself” and “why this specialty?”. However, you should prepare for tricky inquiries, such as the “what are your strengths and weaknesses” residency interview question.
But practicing with sample residency interview questions is not enough. Remember, program directors and faculty will be paying attention not only to your answers to questions, but also your demeanor, your behavior, and even your confidence levels. Simply practicing answers on your own cannot improve these aspects of your interview performance. You might not even be aware of little things that can make a negative impression, such as nervous laughter, lack of eye contact, or poor greetings and goodbyes. All these things matter! And practicing answers on your own will not help you grow in confidence.
This is why you should participate in mock interviews with professional advisors. More than polishing off your answers, you will be able to practice proper interview etiquette and become more assertive in your speech and behavior. No doubt, the interview process is nerve-racking, but if you practice your behavior and receive personalized feedback, you can improve significantly.
Be Strategic with Your Rank Order List
As an IMG, you will of course need to follow all the standard rules of creating your Rank Order List, such as ranking programs according to your preference and not ranking a program you absolutely hate. Those are a given. However, there is a reason why we shared with you the most IMG-friendly residency programs in the US and Canada. This information should help you understand your competitiveness as an IMG applicant and help you rank the programs appropriately.
When it comes to creating your list, you can start planning well in advance. For example, by checking out the most IMG-friendly residency programs we list above, you can research how competitive you are compared to applicants who matched these specialties in previous years. To do this, check out NRMP and CaRMS data to see the profile of graduates who matched each specialty. Compare the kind of experiences and skills you possess with the type of activities recent matched grads had in your specialty.
Don’t forget that while you can certainly pursue some of the most competitive residencies out there, you should be realistic about your chances. For example, in the last match cycle in the US, not one IMG matched dermatology. It does not mean that it’s impossible, but you want to increase your chances by choosing programs and specialties where you have more security.
And remember the golden rule of creating your ROL – always include a program where you believe you have a high chance of matching. You certainly do not need to rank it #1, but don’t forget to include one on your list somewhere.
Whether you choose to pursue IMG friendly residency programs or not is up to you. You know your strengths and weaknesses, and you know how you might stand out as a candidate. However, if you are still unsure about your choices, we strongly recommend you reach out to us for a free strategy call to discuss how we can help you match. Our residency match experts know how to get into residency programs as an IMG and have helped thousands of students get into the programs they pursued.
Additionally, you should use our very own Residency Match Calculator to see how competitive you are for the Match! This will help you narrow down the specialties and programs you want to pursue.
1. What are IMG friendly residency programs?
IMG friendly residency programs are programs where international medical grads have the highest match rates.
2. What are the friendliest residency programs for IMGs?
Programs in primary care specialties tend to be the friendliest, such as family medicine residency, internal medicine residency, pediatrics, and so on.
3. Is it harder to match as an IMG?
There are some obstacles when it comes to matching as an IMG, but they can be easily overcome with appropriate residency app and interview prep.
4. Do I really need clinical experience in the US and Canada to match as an IMG?
Not having any clinical experience in the US or Canada may hurt your chances. It would be best to gain some experience here.
5. Can I use professionals from abroad as referees for my residency application?
You can, but we strongly encourage you to have at least one medical professional from the US and Canada that can vouch for you.
6. Do I need to pass an OSCE exam to be an eligible candidate for the Match?
In Canada, you have to pass the NAC OSCE to be an eligible residency applicant. In the US, each state and program will have its own requirements, so make sure to check their website and guidebook.
7. How important are my USMLE/COMLEX/MCCQE scores for the Match?
They are very important. While scores are not everything, programs pay attention to your score when they decide whom to invite to the interview.
8. Should I apply to programs that are not on your list of IMG friendly residencies?
It is totally up to you. A lot will depend on your work experience and exposure to your chosen specialty. If you can wow the program directors with your experience and knowledge, you may be able to match even the most competitive programs out there!
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