What Awards Are Available for a IMGs Applying for the US Residency Match?
Updated: Jan 19
For IMGs, including international medical students and graduates, the benefits of earning awards extend well beyond recognition. The process of applying for these awards leads to deeper relationships with research mentors, presentations at meetings, and opportunities to network with key decision-makers at residency programs across the country. It can certainly provide a significant boost to the residency application, and it is well worth the effort.
IMGs are making important contributions in patient care, research, teaching, advocacy, and leadership, and may be recognized for these efforts. Awards can provide a significant boost to the strength of the residency application, and distinguish an applicant from his or her peers. In one survey of program directors, Dr. Green and colleagues found that awards were tenth in importance among a group of 14 residency selection criteria. Although not as important as UMSLE Step scores and LORs (letters of recommendation), awards were ranked higher than such factors as preclinical grades, research while in medical school, and published medical school research.
I'm the author of the book, Medical School Scholarships, Grants, & Awards: Insider Advice for Winning Scholarships. Through this process, I’ve become familiar with grants and awards open to both U.S. medical students and IMGs. While it’s true that many awards are only open to U.S. medical students, a surprising number are also available to international medical students and graduates.
As competition for residency positions intensifies, applicants who’ve won awards will stand out from their peers. Several years ago, I wrote an article describing 10 awards that can enhance the credentials of IMG applicants (originally published at StudentDoc.com). This blog post is based on that article.
10 Awards Available to IMGs, for International Medical Students or Graduates
ACP National Abstract Competition
Students enrolled in international medical schools may become members of the American College of Physicians (ACP) free of charge.
Membership allows students to submit abstracts for the ACP National Abstract Competition.
Abstracts can be submitted in the categories of basic research, clinical research, quality improvement/patient safety, high value cost conscious care, and clinical vignette.
The first author of any winning abstract is asked to prepare an oral or poster presentation at the ACP Internal Medicine Meeting.
In one competition, Eleah Porter, a medical student at the American University of the Caribbean School of Medicine, presented a poster entitled “A Rare Cause of Massive Hematuria: Renal Artery Aneurysm Rupture,” at the ACP National Conference. The research was based on a patient encounter during her surgery core clerkship at The Brooklyn Hospital Center. It was selected as a National Winner in the Student Clinical Vignette division.
ACP State Chapter Competition
State ACP Chapters also hold these competitions, and international students may be eligible to enter. Namrata Kohli, a student at the American University of Antigua, won first place at the ACP South Carolina Annual Conference for her research on the Broken Heart Syndrome.
Society of Hospital Medicine Scientific Abstract and Poster Competition
International medical students and graduates may submit abstracts to the Society of Hospital Medicine (SHM). SHM holds the Scientific Abstract and Poster Competition, also known as “Research, Innovations, and Clinical Vignettes,” at the SHM Annual Meeting. In recent years, there have been over 1,100 applicants competing for approximately 700 poster spots. To be eligible, the first author should be a member of the society. If the first author is unable to present the poster at the meeting, he or she can designate another author to do so, including IMGs.
International medical students and graduates can join SHM and register for the meeting as an affiliate member.
Society of General Internal Medicine Clinical Vignette Competition
The Society of General Internal Medicine (SGIM) allows international medical students and graduates to submit vignettes for the Clinical Vignette Competition held at the SGIM Annual Meeting. Vignettes may also be submitted for competitions at regional meetings (Midwest, California-Hawaii, Northwest, Southern, Mid-Atlantic, New England).
AMA Research Symposium
IMGs who are ECFMG-certified and awaiting residency can join the American Medical Association.
Members can submit abstracts of their scientific research for consideration of poster presentation at the AMA Research Symposium. A small number of abstracts will be selected for the Oral Presentation Competition. Every year, the AMA names winners for both podium and poster presentations from the AMA IMG Section.
Excellence in Emergency Medicine Award
International medical students are encouraged to make inquiries with their medical school about their eligibility for the Excellence in Emergency Medicine Award bestowed by the Society for Academic Emergency Medicine.
Although the award has traditionally been given to U.S. or Canadian medical students, a number of St. George’s University graduates have been recipients of this prestigious honor.
Society for Public Health Education
Many IMGs seeking residency positions in the U.S. pursue MPH degrees. For graduate students in these programs, there are opportunities to win awards, scholarships, and fellowships through the Society for Public Health Education (SOPHE).
Award opportunities are available for students interested in patient engagement, injury prevention, attendance at the SOPHE Annual Meeting, and research.
Dr. James A. Ferguson Emerging Infectious Diseases Fellowship
The Dr. James A. Ferguson Emerging Infectious Diseases Fellowship is a 9-week fellowship program funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Fellows have opportunities to participate in public health research in the area of infectious diseases and health disparities.
Full-time students in medical or public health graduate programs are eligible to apply. U.S. Citizens, U.S. Nationals, and Permanent Residents may apply for the fellowship (although international students with F1 or K1 visas are not eligible). Applicants who are members of underrepresented groups are particularly encouraged to apply.
Paul Ambrose Scholars Program
Medical (allopathic and osteopathic) and public health students may apply for the Paul Ambrose Scholars Program. Scholars learn how to address population health challenges at the national and community level. Participants complete online public health knowledge assessments, attend a leadership symposium, and plan and implement a local community health project.
American Psychiatric Association Poster Competition
The Annual Meeting of the Institute of Psychiatric Services of the American Psychiatric Association offers an opportunity for international medical students and graduates to present posters.
At one meeting, Adam Hines, a medical student at the Ross University School of Medicine, presented “Meningioma and Psychiatric Symptoms: A Case Report and Review.” The poster was based on a patient encounter he had during a rotation at St. John’s Episcopal Hospital in Far Rockaway, NY. “The poster presentation was a really great experience,” said Hines in an article posted on the Ross University School of Medicine website. “I was able to present to prestigious people and to discuss the case with them.” He later wrote an article that was accepted for publication.
Although awards are valuable, the process of preparing to apply and applying can be equally valuable
IMGs have applied for and received many distinguished awards, and I encourage you to apply as well. I also want to repeat one important point: the process of seeking research opportunities, preparing posters, preparing presentations, and working with your advisors on these projects is just as valuable as receiving awards. From obtaining valuable research experience and developing closer relationships with medical faculty, the process itself can be incredibly fulfilling and rewarding.
As you're considering these opportunities, I encourage you to start working towards these awards and recognitions, and I wish you all the best with your important work.
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.