• Samir Desai

IMG Friendly Psychiatry Programs

If you’re an IMG applying to the psychiatry 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.

Why is applying to IMG friendly psychiatry programs important for IMGs?

Although many applicants to psychiatry residency 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 psychiatry 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 residency programs that are known to be IMG friendly.

Image of resident at IMG friendly psychiatry residency program
For IMGs, applying to IMG friendly psychiatry 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 15+ 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 to find IMG friendly residency programs or IMG friendly hospitals

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 psychiatry programs.

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

You’ll notice that we have presented this information by state. As you go through this resource, you will notice that 26 states have at least one 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 Louisiana.

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

  • New York has 10 programs

  • Florida has six programs

  • Michigan has four 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 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 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 psychiatry 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 resi