Still on the match…

Posted by T3012 on June 5, 2013

I mentioned in my last post that I was going to post some of the questions I have received from potential IMG applicants to General Surgery residency.

In reviewing most of the questions, they all share a very strong similarity and border on issues I had addressed in some of my previous posts: Scores, letters, Visas, observership/externship and research.

Again, these were applicants for general surgery which is more competitive for IMGs than some other specialties. That being said, any IMG applicant should follow the same steps regardless of the specialty of interest. A few questions however differ. I will try to summarize the answers to these questions below. Opinions on matching:


For a start, do not listen to what people say when it comes to matching into residency unless of course, it is someone you really trust. Most of the horror stories are just anecdotal reports. That being said, you need to be realistic in terms of your expectations. Very low scores, multiple attempts, and dreams of becoming an orthopod do not align well together.

I am an optimist to the core but that is sure a tough road to go down. If there is another specialty you will absolutely consider, I will strongly recommend you pursue it. No point waiting 3-4 years to match when you can be busy doing something else.

You can always start something for now and try again later. Visa/Green card: Very key. Opens up more programs than you would normally be exposed to. I have talked about this before. USMLE scores: I have always talked about knocking the USMLE out of the park.

However, there are poor scores, acceptable scores, and outstanding scores. The stratification between specialties will differ i.e score of 210 may be strong for one specialty and be simply OK for a surgical specialty. It is just a reflection of the pool of applicants for that specialty.

There are other ways you can strengthen your applications of course. Academic vs Community Programs: In my opinion, this stratification should not even exist for an IMG when you are applying for residency. Do not limit yourself to academic or community programs only!!! You need to get into residency first. That is your goal. Whether it is a community program or otherwise, they are ALL accredited. Who says some community programs do not like research?

By the way, your primary goal is simply to get trained in an accredited program, period. For those who love academics, you will be pleasantly surprised by some community programs and vice versa. You can decide which ones you will prefer to go to when you rank. 

The number of programs to apply to: Apply everywhere, literally. The more programs, the better your chances, unless there is any constraint with family. Otherwise, you should apply to as many programs as your fund can support. 

Prelim programs vs categorical: Don’t expect this to give you a spot in that program, though it can. I see it as additional clinical experience if taken seriously. OK. I hope that is helpful to someone out there. Till the next post, stay strong!