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The Differential

Medical Schools Outside the United States

Vincent Migliaccio Michaelson, Medical Student, 10:50AM Aug 12, 2017

O&Med School of Medicine

Ever wondered what it is like to go to medical school somewhere that is not the United States? What is it like? Is the education any good? As an American who is pursuing medical education outside the United States, I can share my experience.  

The international medical graduate (IMG) is someone who has graduated outside the country where they want to practice. Oftentimes, they want to go to the United States or Canada. For an American citizen wanting to study abroad, the road to becoming a doctor is not as long of a process as it in the United States. Most schools do not require a bachelor's degree, and the programs last 5-6 years, depending on the school. In that respect, you can save time. However, you need to consider studying for USMLE, which can take up to a year, depending on how you will study for it.

Also, you have to consider being away from family and friends for a long time; the school terms are year-round with no summer vacation. You get a week here and there sometimes at most. In terms of expenses, most schools will charge extra for noncitizens of the country. That's added to housing and living expenses, unless you have family/friends there to live with. Although, in comparison to the astronomical prices you pay at an American school, it is still considerably less.

I mentioned studying for the USMLE; the entire process takes longer for IMGs. Plus, there is extra paperwork, ECFMG certification, and more. You also need to score higher the national average of the specialty you want to match into. For example, if you want to go into surgery and that requires a score of 250 on the Step Exam, you need to score a 260 or 265. You need things that make you stand out even more. Also, you need US clinical experience. So you need to travel to where the school has agreements with hospitals. Although some people do match into residency programs without the experience, most places recommend that you have it. 

If you are from the country that you are studying in, and you are not American, the process is very similar, except when it comes to getting a Visa or Green Card. Some countries have it easier than others. I recommend that you try to stand out even more from other applicants because sometimes programs will help with the Visa process. 

In terms of the programs themselves, I always say it doesn't matter the school you go to, it matters how good of a student you want to be. Medicine and text books are the same here or there. The Internet helps puts everything at level playing field; all the information is there, and you can learn all the concepts. There are some very good programs outside the United States. I have friends at different medical schools know doctors from both the United States and elsewhere. There are very good doctors produced by schools outside the United States. Some doctors who studied and did residency in the states have even come back to practice medicine in the country where they were educated. 

So far, my personal experience has been positive, and I am very lucky to be where I am now. Also, there are some really good resources about IMGs on American Medical Association web site. The ECFMG web page and USMLE.org have a lot of information for the IMG as well. 

Poll: Are you a IMG or national medical graduate? IMG|I plan on practicing where I studied|
About This Blog

Medical school and residency can be a stressful, demanding time. These medical students share their insights and experiences, good and bad, in order to create a community of support and understanding for medical students everywhere.

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