I spoke to two different doctors from Northwestern University. One is a board certified GI doctor who’s been practicing for 35 years. Another doctor is a board certified cardiologist, who is also an associate professor, and a researcher in hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. They gave me similar advice, which you should pay attention to.
As an IMG, you should be well aware that we need to be more competitive than our AMG counterparts. We were not spoon-fed like American medical students; therefore, we have the ability to go beyond the norm in order to land a good residency.
When we need to consider residency, we need to cover four things and we need to be on top of it. As an IMG, this is the least that we should do.
1. USMLE Step 2 CK score should be competitive. If you did well in USMLE Step 1 then that’s great, and if you didn’t do all that great then this is the chance to make up for it. The USMLE Step 2 CK score should be competitive; try to score as high as you can. Also, make sure your Step 2 CK score is higher than Step 1 score because it’ll show the residency board that you are improving. And also make sure you pass the USMLE Step 2 CS on the first try.
2. Clinical clerkship grades should be close to 4.0 as much as possible. Us IMGs are fortunate that we can do clinical clerkships and it’s part of the curriculum. Use your clinical clerkships to the best of your ability and do your best to get straight A’s. The grades in clinical clerkships are weighed heavily because it’s conducted in the US. Your grades in the island is not as important as your clerkship grades because those grades cannot be assessed on the same, fair level.
3. Letters of recommendation (LOR) are important because it gives an insight of your strengths and weaknesses by the attending physicians who worked with you. It’s very important to get LORs from attending physicians who will praise your work specifically and avoid the attending physicians who will only write a generalized LOR. Also, before you start your clinical clerkships, try your best to get attending physicians who are directors or chairman of departments because it will increase the value of the LOR.
4. Research is a vital part of your application. For those who did not transferred out of SJSM, it is part of your requirement in order to graduate. SJSM requires all students to conduct some kind of research to receive their MD degrees. According to all Northwestern University physicians, research will set you apart from the rest of the applicants. Research work at notable institutions are very good such as University of Chicago or Northwestern University. However, you can also do research with 3rd year resident doctors in the hospitals you do rotations in.
In addition to the four things I mentioned, do extra curricular activities such as volunteering at other hospitals or getting involved in heath fairs. This will show residency boards that you are just more than books and grades.