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  • Writer's pictureSamir Desai

IMG Friendly Family Medicine Programs

Updated: Aug 23, 2022

If you’re an IMG applying to the family medicine residency match, it’s important to learn about IMG friendly residency programs. That’s because a successful residency match strategy focuses on applying to the right residency programs.

If you're looking for more help applying to residency, we also offer our online course: The Residency Interview 101. Our expert strategies and insider tips on the admissions process can help you become a standout applicant.

Why is applying to IMG friendly family medicine programs important for IMGs?

Although many applicants to family medicine programs may end up applying to 100 or more residency programs, it’s important to recognize that not all programs will review your application in the same way.

Some family medicine residency programs will rarely, if ever, accept an IMG. For example, some programs are so highly competitive that they have far more US medical student applications that they can accept, and therefore they are less likely to look at IMG residency applicants.

There are always exceptions, of course. For example, an IMG who has spent several years with a particular residency program working closely with faculty and key decision-makers on research projects may be able to successfully match at that program.

As a general rule, though, it’s helpful to target multiple family medicine residency programs that are known to be IMG friendly.

Image of resident at IMG friendly family medicine residency program
For IMGs, applying to IMG friendly family medicine programs can be an important part of residency match strategy

What does it mean to be an IMG friendly residency program?

I have worked closely with many IMGs, and have seen hundreds of IMGs successfully match into US residency programs. Our company MD2B Connect provides clinical rotations for IMGs, as well as residency application support services, which means I have worked directly with many, many fantastic IMG applicants over the past 10+ years.

In working with so many applicants, I've been able to identify multiple programs that we consider to be IMG friendly.

What do I mean by IMG friendly? An IMG friendly program, in my definition, is any program that has accepted an IMG in the previous five years. Obviously, there are going to be differences within that group. I break it down to three main tiers.

  • Top-tier: over 50% of residents in the program are currently IMGs

  • Middle tier: 25 to 50% of residents in the program are currently IMGs

  • Lowest tier: less than 25% of residents in the program are currently IMGs

How can you locate IMG friendly programs?

At the most basic level, you can start with a Google search to identify these programs. Your goal is to search for residency programs, and then evaluate all of their current residents. As you look through current residents, you'll need to determine what medical schools they've graduated from. This is obviously very detailed, painstaking work.

Because we work with so many IMGs, we've already done that work, in order to help our applicants identify programs that they could be targeting.

Our resource of IMG friendly programs, outlining programs across the United States in 6 different specialties, is available to everyone.

If you link here, you can see our statistics on IMG friendly family medicine programs.

What are some of the most IMG friendly states for family medicine residency?

You’ll notice that we have presented this information by state. As you go through this resource, you will notice that 42 states have at least one family medicine residency program that’s considered IMG friendly. Although that's a lot of states, it's important to notice that many of these states have only one program, such as Oregon.

What are some of the states that have multiple IMG friendly family medicine programs?

  • Michigan has 23 family medicine programs

  • California has 22 family medicine programs

  • New York has 16 family medicine programs

  • Florida has 12 family medicine programs

What should an IMG applicant do with this information?

As you’re looking through this list, it’s important to think about how you might target these family medicine programs. If a program has a history of taking IMG applicants, then the next step is to try to identify any potential connections or commonalities that you might have with that program.

What are potential commonalities that you might have with the residency program?

  • Completion of a rotation in that program

  • Multiple rotations completed in that state

  • Your current state of residence

  • Permanent mailing address

  • Close connections to the state, such as previous residence or family members

  • A compelling reason to be interested in living in that state in the future

  • Connections with current residents in that program

  • Connections with current faculty members in that program

  • Connections with physicians in that local community, such as having completed a rotation with a local physician

  • An area of interest within medicine that is congruent with an area of medicine that is a focus of the program

Completing a rotation at that family medicine program is a very strong indicator of interest in the program

Study after study has demonstrated that audition electives are a powerful way of increasing a student's chances of matching with a particular residency program.

When you’re applying through the NRMP, your application can easily get lost in a sea of other highly qualified applicants. What distinguishes your one application from 1000 other applications that the program is reviewing for their 10 residency positions?

This can distinguish you: if you rotated at that program, and the faculty has come to know you as an individual, that can be an incredibly powerful distinguishing factor.

Being a resident of the state can provide a powerful boost to your application for an in-state residency program

Where do you live currently? This can be incredibly compelling to a residency program.

For example, one of my students lived one hour away from a particular rural residency program (let’s say in Louisiana). At the same time, two students from the New York area rotated at that residency program.

On paper, the two New York students were stronger applicants. Despite that, the student with the Louisiana mailing address was the one who ultimately matched at the program. This may have been due to individual differences among the applicants, but I can’t rule out the potential role of geography.

Any potential connections to a particular state or geographic region can strengthen your attractiveness to a residency program

Why does indicating your connection to a state or interest in a state or geographic region matter? It matters for multiple reasons.

If you’re applying to a program in a rural area, for example, program faculty want to know that you’ll be happy working at their program and living in the area for the next three years. Your experience with that region can help make that clear.

Expressing your future interest in providing medical care in these geographic locations, if true, can also be an important factor for residency programs

If you have an interest in remaining in this particular geographic location for your future career, it is important to express that.

This can be an important selection factor for some residency programs. That's because some programs consider it their mission to improve access to care for their communities.

For example, certain communities in Louisiana may lack access to primary care physicians or to specialty care. For applicants who are interested in remaining in this state or region after their training, it can be important to express that.

Do not, under any circumstances, state that you’re interested in remaining in a rural part of Louisiana if you have no interest in doing so. Programs can usually see through this, and you may actually harm your chances.

However, if you have geographic ties to this location, or have a strong interest in rural care (for example), then it is acceptable, and can be favorable, to let the program know that.

Having professional goals in common can emphasize your fit with this residency program

Why would a rural family medicine program in Louisiana not offer an interview to a superstar residency applicant? They may not interview that superstar applicant because the program's strengths, offerings, and goals may not “fit“ with the applicant's strengths, interests and goals. The residency program is looking for applicants who will “fit“ with the program. Study after study has demonstrated that this concept of fit is incredibly important to residency program decision makers. A research-focused applicant, no matter how strong, may not "fit" well with a program that has a really strong focus on providing rural healthcare--unless that applicant is able to clearly outline her interest in rural healthcare in some way.

What are some examples of professional goals or interests?

  • Rural healthcare

  • Care for underserved populations

  • Health promotion

  • Health promotion in underserved populations

  • Basic science research

  • Translational research

  • An interest in emerging technologies in diagnosis

  • An interest in specific emerging treatments

  • An interest in a specific disease process

  • An interest in a specific therapeutic modality

  • An interest in collaborative, multi-specialty care

  • And many more

There are multiple ways to highlight your "fit" with specific residency programs

If you are an IMG who has done research on the use of ketamine in treatment-resistant depression, you might start looking for IMG friendly residency programs who have faculty or even entire centers devoted to emerging therapies for treatment-resistant depression, even if these therapies are not specifically focused on ketamine. In writing your personal statement for that program, you can see how you could start to really target this specific program. These are the types of strategies that we discuss in detail in our book The Successful Match: Rules to Succeed in the Residency Match, as well as in our course, The Residency Interview 101.

The basic underlying foundation of applying to residency programs is to show them that you would be a great fit with their program, and then demonstrating that via each and every component of your application.

And all of that starts with intensely researching the residency programs to which you'll be applying.

Even if you’re a very strong applicant, and you don’t wish to put in the time and effort to research residency programs, we highly recommend targeting at least four programs, and going deep with your understanding of what the program is seeking. This kind of information is critical when it comes to residency interviews as well as application materials.

When you identify IMG friendly residency programs, does the particular medical school or country that you're from make a difference?

In our resource detailing IMG friendly family medicine residency programs, we’ve provided links to each of the programs that we highlight.

As you go through these programs, you’ll notice that in some programs, they have multiple residents from a particular medical school.

  • For example, some of the family practice residency programs in Louisiana seem to have multiple residents from particular Caribbean medical schools.

  • Other programs seem to have multiple residents from a particular country.

Should this impact your application strategy? Not necessarily. I definitely wouldn’t use this as a reason not to apply to a particular program. Instead, this may be a reflection of several important principles.

First, residency program directors are looking for residents who will be successful. They want residents who are happy training in the program, and who are able to excel in patient care and in helping the program reach its goals. If a program has a solid, positive track record with students from a certain school, they may look favorably upon other applicants from that school.

Another possibility is that networking may come into play. If the family medicine resident is from a particular medical school, and a student from that school contacts them for advice, that resident may choose to discuss the student with their own program director. Having a personal recommendation from a current resident can be a very strong factor for a residency program director to take another look at that application. And perhaps even extend an invitation to interview.

With IMG friendly programs, are some more "friendly" to US citizen IMGs?

Are some IMG friendly programs more "friendly" to non-US citizen IMGs?

Every one of the programs on our list has to be looked at individually. But in looking over these programs, it does appear that some programs have more US citizen IMGs, and others have more non-US citizen IMGs. Some of that may be due to visa issues. Or, as mentioned above, some of that may be due to the program's familiarity with certain schools.

How can you stand out to these programs?

Start thinking now about how you can make sure that each and every component of your application emphasizes your fit with this particular program. As we mentioned, we have multiple resources devoted to this topic. Please see our blog, our podcast, our books, and our course for more on this topic.

The bottom line: identifying and applying to IMG friendly family medicine programs can be incredibly helpful and may strengthen your chances of a successful residency match

For IMGs applying to the US residency match, it can be very challenging. Generally speaking, approximately half of all IMG applicants fail to match at all. If you want to increase your chances, it’s incredibly important to have a strategy in place. And a key component of that strategy is identifying the right programs to apply to. One facet of “the right“ program is looking for programs that have a history of training IMG residents. How can you stand out to these family medicine programs?

  • We recommend that you start by looking for IMG friendly programs in any state where you have some connection, whether it’s where you are currently living, or your permanent mailing address, or a state where you have family members.

  • Beyond that, researching programs and then identifying professional commonalities is also incredibly important.

If you'd like to check out our resource on IMG friendly residency programs in family medicine, here's that link again.

We wish you all the best in the residency match.


If you'd like to see our posts for other specialties, please see:


Dr. Samir Desai is the author of The Successful Match: Rules to Succeed in the Residency Match and is co-founder of MD2B Connect, the most trusted and highest-rated provider of hands-on clinical experiences for IMGs in the U.S.

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.

If you'd like to receive a free 100+ page excerpt of The Successful Match, please sign up here.


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