Aside from preparing for the Steps the most tedious and puzzling part of the residency process is making a list of IMG friendly residency programs to apply to. Obviously being an IMG you should only apply to IMG friendly residency programs whose program criteria you meet. As you know its very important to be selective in where you apply as there are thousands of programs and application fees can amount to thousands of dollars.
To narrow down to a couple hundred of programs from thousands was a process of determining the intersection of where my individual profile overlapped with program criteria. Do not use the generic “IMG Friendly” Residency Program Lists floating around the internet. You want to tailor the list to your unique profile based on several other factors such as scores, visa status, type of IMG, years since graduation, USCE experience – one size does not fit all. Additionally do not believe a program is IMG Friendly merely because its stated on their website “we welcome IMGs” (we will discuss this later on in this article)
There are a few tools online that generate lists of IMG Friendly Residency Programs claiming to also reveal the percentage of residents that are IMGs, but this statistic was irrelevant to me. Because there absolutely needs to be a distinction between Caribbean vs non-Caribbean IMGs since many programs heavily favor one IMG type over the other. An example of this is Family Medicine where programs are statistically twice as Caribbean IMG friendly vs Non-Caribbean IMG friendly. These statistics provided by these tools generalize IMG types as one – all IMGs are not created equally.
So I started off creating an Excel spreadsheet with separate tabs for each specialty I wanted to apply to such as “Internal Medicine”, “Family Medicine” etc. I then went to Freida and searched for programs with a filter on the Specialty and location. I only wanted to apply to certain states where there was potential for my spouse to get job opportunities. Being in the IT field we restricted ourselves to California, Arizona, Nevada, Texas, New York, New Jersey, Florida, Washington DC, Pennsylvania, Maryland etc.
I copied and pasted the search results from Freida one by one to the Excel Spreadsheet into the respective Specialty tab along with contact name, email, city, states, phone, etc. I then visited the website of each and every program (which was very tedious to say the least!). I tried to look for each programs application criteria whenever it was specified. I removed or kept the program in my Excel spreadsheet based on whether I met the criteria or not. You will sometimes find this information on the FAQ page.
The final filter and most important one was to remove or keep programs from my lists based on non-Caribbean IMG friendly programs, this involved going through the Current Residents page of each site counting the number of non-Caribbean IMGs and dividing them by the total number of residents. I entered this percentage in my spreadsheet – as absurd as this may sound but it is the best indicator of whether a program is TRULY IMG Friendly or not. You will come across several programs which explicitly claim on their websites that they welcome IMGs to their program but a quick look at their current residents will suggest otherwise.
Many programs do not have detailed information on their websites, so I attempted to contact them by phone and email. You will find that in most cases you will be greeted with a voicemail option or generic replies to your emails. The IMG percentages on Freida do not distinguish Caribbean IMGs from non-Caribbean IMGs. I finally picked the top 200+ programs based on reputation and percentage of non-Caribbean IMGs and applied there.
It was relatively quick to detail the process of shortlisting IMG Friendly Residency Programs but mind you it took several weeks to complete my application list and even then I kept altering it till applications opened up in September. In conclusion you should only apply to those program whose application criteria you meet, otherwise its very easy to get carried away, applications = money – so apply smart!