4 Strategies to Help IMGs with Networking and US Residency Match Success
A few years ago, I had the opportunity to speak to a group of IMGs (international medical graduates) and international medical students as part of a panel at the National Arab American Medical Association Meeting. I spoke about the importance of networking for applicants seeking residency positions in the U.S.
In the Q&A that followed, a number of established physicians in the Arab American community spoke passionately about mentors who were influential in helping them match to their US residency training positions.
Networking is an incredibly important part of the US residency application process for IMGs
I’ve seen amazing things happen when applicants embrace the power of networking.
Although networking can be an intimidating process, it's often critical in the residency application process. In fact, networking has been instrumental in the residency match success of many IMGs.
The relationships that you develop through networking can be instrumental in providing helpful advice, opportunities to shadow, opportunities to perform research, and sometimes even introductions to faculty at residency programs.
The bottom line is that networking is extremely important for US residency match success. However, I've spoken to many, many applicants, and I've found that many are uncomfortable with the process. Unfortunately, these fears prevent them from establishing the types of relationships that can open important doors.
What is networking? Networking has been defined by the AAMC as “connecting and developing relationships with physicians and other health care professionals to use as a resource in your career.”
Read this definition again. Networking is about relationships. In this post, I'm going to provide an overview of several strategies that IMG applicants can use to begin networking so that they can start the process of developing relationships within the US medical system.
Strategy #1: Consider People You Already Know
You may already have people in your network you can connect with in a professional capacity. These may be family members, friends, advisors, and colleagues. Include acquaintances as well. After you’ve identified those within your network, you’re ready to talk with them about your career plans and goals.
Your established network may also be able to provide you with names and contact information of people who can help you reach your professional goals.
Strategy #2, Part 1: Connect with IMGs from Your Medical School
Your network should include graduates of your medical school who are practicing in the U.S. Some schools will provide you with names and contact information, and we’ve even heard of schools arranging phone appointments with alumni. If your school does not have a list of alumni practicing in the U.S, you can harness the power of the internet to locate these individuals.
To refine your approach, we recommend initially contacting residents and practicing physicians in the U.S. who have completed their education at your school. You may be more comfortable starting your efforts with this group, and then branching out to others.
Strategy #2, Part 2: Connect with IMGs from Other Medical Schools
You can continue to build your network by initiating relationships with IMG graduates of other schools. Although you have not attended the same medical school, you still share a common bond with these physicians. It’s likely that you’re facing the same struggles that they faced when they went through the process, and you’ll find that many will be receptive to your inquiries.
Strategy #3: Join Professional Associations
You can also expand your network by joining professional associations. Organizations like the American Academy of Family Physicians and American Medical Association hold annual meetings with formal networking events.
Ethnic physician organizations, like the National Arab American Medical Association (mentioned at the beginning of this post), the American Association of Physicians from India (AAPI), and multiple others, are yet another opportunity to expand your network.
Strategy #4: Recognize the Value of Networking
It can be uncomfortable (and even sometimes discouraging) to approach new people. You may have to "knock" on 100 doors before someone responds.
However, remember that every person you encounter will have had people in their lives who played important roles in getting them to where they are today. The relationships you form in your own professional journey will likewise shape you and your career. That's why, even if you're feeling uncomfortable, it's so important to begin the process of networking.
Dr. Rajani Katta is the creator of The Residency Interview 101, the online course that helps applicants quickly and confidently prepare for their residency interviews. She is also the co-author of The Successful Match: Rules to Succeed in the Residency Match and served as Professor of Dermatology at the Baylor College of Medicine for over 17 years.
Dr. Samir Desai is the author of 20 books, including The Successful Match and The Clinician's Guide to Laboratory Medicine. He has been a faculty member in the Department of Internal Medicine at the Baylor College of Medicine for over 20 years and has won numerous teaching award