Revising Your Personal Statement for a U.S. Medical Residency

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If you are planning to apply for a U.S. medical residency in 2018, you’re probably already in the process of working on your personal statement. After successfully brainstorming and planning out your personal statement, you may have written your first, second, or even third draft by now. Once you feel like you have a solid draft in hand, you can move on to the next phase of the writing process: revising your personal statement.

Revising Your Personal Statement

Revising your personal statement means going back and reconsidering its overall content, organization, and flow. When you’re ready to revise your personal statement, take a look at our previous posts on what to do and what not to do when writing your personal statement. After ensuring that your personal statement meets those general guidelines, here are a few more things you can do to make the revision process as productive as possible.

 

  • Give it a day to rest. After you finish a draft of your personal statement, it can help to step away from the paper for a little while. Many writers get so wrapped up in writing that they start to miss obvious problems with organization and sentence fluency. Often, when you come back to your paper, the problems will immediately jump out at you, so they are far easier to fix. Plus, with so much of the summer remaining to work on your personal statement, you can afford to take your time!
  • Have a close friend or family member read it over. When you’re revising your personal statement, your main focus is on the overall content (not the grammar or punctuation — editing comes later), so it is best to have someone who knows you well read it over for the first time. Even your best friend isn’t a grammar whiz, they can tell you whether your voice and your story truly shine through, because those are the things that will stand out to your residency application reader!
  • Print it out. Many students no longer write anything by hand, but when you print out your personal statement, it can be easier to see how the changes you make fit into the paper as a whole. Also, when you cross things out on paper, they don’t get deleted on your computer — so you can add them back in later. If you do decide to revise your paper only on your computer, make sure that you save separate versions of each draft so that you can always recover the parts that you took out if you need to.
  • Read it out loud. Reading your personal statement out loud can help you quickly identify problems with flow. Your eyes might skim over a confusing sentence as you silently read over the document, but when you read it out loud, you have to consider every word and how they fit together. Also, reading your statement out loud can make you realize if you are starting every sentence the same way, which is a sign that you need to vary your sentence structure.
  • Imagine you are the application reader. Read over your personal statement as if you had never met yourself before. What questions would you have? Is there anything that does not make sense? Again, before performing this exercise, it can be helpful to step away from your personal statement for at least a few hours.
  • Have someone who is familiar with the U.S. medical residency application process read it. Whether it is an adviser at your medical school, an attending physician who was trained in the United States, or a friend who has already been matched to a U.S. medical residency program, it often helps to get advice from someone who has a general understanding of what application readers are looking for.
  • Seek advice from your letter writers. When you ask for letters of reference, some attending physicians ask for a draft of your personal statement. You should make sure that you hand them a copy that has already gone through multiple revisions (and has undergone enough editing that it is free of major errors in spelling and grammar) — but you can also ask them for any advice that they have on it. They may be able to help you tweak the content so that it does a better job of highlighting your character or emphasizing the quality of your clinical experience in your desired specialty area.
  • Keep revising. Even if you feel like the first draft of your statement is well done, remember that revision is more than a one-hour, one-day, or even one-week process. Leave ample time to create multiple drafts, try out different organizational structures, and add or remove content. That way, the content of your personal statement will be well-established when it comes time to move on to the next step in the writing process — editing. Stay tuned to the blog for advice on editing in a future post!

If you’re a foreign medical graduate and you’re thinking about applying for a U.S. medical residency, FMG offers lots of resources that can help you get matched. Contact us today for more information!

What NOT To Do on Your Medical Residency Personal Statement

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Previously on the blog, we’ve had a few conversations about the personal statement. In the personal statement planning post, we talked about the importance of brainstorming ideas for your personal statement. Last week, we delved further into personal statement drafting. To recap: when it comes time to draft your personal statement, there are some important things to keep in mind that can help you write an outstanding personal statement — like telling a story, being conscious of your audience, organizing it to optimize fluency, and keeping the statement succinct.

That advice can serve as a foundation for a successful personal statement, but as you write, you need to be careful to avoid certain pitfalls that can derail your personal statement and reduce your chances of getting matched. Here is a list of some things NOT to do on your personal statement:

 

  • Do NOT simply rewrite your CV in paragraph form. On your residency application, you only have a certain amount of space available to demonstrate why you are an excellent candidate for a US medical residency program. If your personal statement only serves to repeat what is already on your CV, it won’t be adding anything to your application. You should choose a few particularly meaningful experiences from your CV and expand on them in greater depth, explaining how exactly they shaped your academic interests and career goals.
  • Do NOT use your medical school application as a template. Many residency applicants make the mistake of simply tacking on a paragraph about a residency to the end of their medical school personal statement. However, residency application readers are more interested in why you chose a particular specialty area — not why you wanted to enter the field of medicine in the first place. They also want to know about your long-term career goals, which should be much more clear than they were when you first applied to medical school.
  • Do NOT focus on political or religious issues. You never know who your reader will be, so you should be careful about discussing controversial topics. If a particular life experience related to politics or religion truly merits discussion — for instance, if you worked on a political campaign or volunteered for a religious charity — make sure to discuss it in a way that highlights how it shaped your experience and demonstrates your suitability for the residency program. Don’t spend time touting the political or religious message. The personal statement should be about you.
  • Do NOT try to be funny. On a personal statement, humor tends to fall flat. While it might be okay to include a witty comment or two, remember that you are discussing a very serious topic: your future training as a physician. You do not want your application reader to think that you are taking the subject lightly. Also, as a foreign medical graduate, there are sometimes cultural barriers when it comes to humor. An obvious joke in your country may be confusing for an American application reader, so it’s usually better not to risk it.
  • Do NOT use abbreviations, jargon, slang, or profanity. Remember that a residency application is essentially a job application, so you need to be professional with your language. You want to let your genuine voice shine through, but you don’t want to come off too casual. Also, abbreviations and jargon might be familiar to you, but they may confuse your application reader and distract from your message. If you need to use an abbreviation for an organization (like a medical society or volunteer group), make sure to spell it out first so your reader knows what you are talking about.
  • Do NOT be too repetitive. Application readers will notice if you use the same words over and over or if you start all of your sentences the same way. Don’t worry about it too much when writing the first draft of your personal statement, but as you read it over, try to find ways to vary your sentence structure. A thesaurus can also come in handy when looking for synonyms.
  • Do NOT try to make your writing too complex. While the last bullet point on avoiding repetitiveness is important, remember that your goal is to explain why you are an excellent candidate for a medical residency — not to impress your application reader by using lots of big words. Especially if English is your second language, stick to words and sentences that are simple, direct, and focused on your topic.

Your personal statement is one of the most important documents in your medical residency application, so it is essential to avoid common mistakes. That way, you can ensure that your reader will remember all of the reasons why you are a good candidate who is well-prepared to succeed in their program.

Need more help with residency placement? FMG Portal offers a wide range of helpful services for foreign medical graduates. Contact us today!

Residency Specialty Spotlight: Occupational and Environmental Medicine

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If you want to focus your career on preventive medicine, a residency program in occupational and environmental medicine (OEM) could be right for you. This specialty area is unique because it is highly interdisciplinary. As a physician specializing in OEM, you will be trained to diagnose and treat work-related injuries and illnesses, so your education will include experience in both traditional medical care and public health.

Occupational and Environmental Medicine Residency Programs

Residency programs that train specialists in occupational and environmental medicine typically last for two years. They are designed specifically to train physicians in the competencies laid out by the ACGME for Residency Training in Preventive Medicine (Occupational Medicine specialty), as well as those defined by the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. Specifically, OEM residency programs typically involve studies in:

  • Clinical practice of OEM
  • OEM-related laws and regulations
  • Environmental health
  • Disability management
  • Toxicology
  • Hazard identification, assessment, and management
  • Disaster management
  • Public health and disease prevention
  • Management and administration

Many programs also provide opportunities for academic research in OEM, and some programs even give residents the chance to earn a Master of Public Health (MPH) or Master of Occupational Health (MOH) degree in the first year. As a result, when you finish, you will not only have the skills needed to work in a clinic or hospital, but you will also be prepared to get a  job in a corporate setting, work for a government agency, or serve as part of a legal or regulatory body.

Applying for an OEM Program as a Foreign Medical School Graduate

Because OEM combines studies in medicine and U.S. law, it is one of the less common choices for foreign medical graduates. However, if you are passionate about making a difference in the field of OEM, don’t hesitate to apply!

The most important thing to do on your residency application is to show that you are committed to a career in OEM. For instance, you can discuss previous work experiences or research that you have conducted in the field. It can be especially helpful to have completed a clinical externship in the occupational medicine, because it can demonstrate to your application reader that you have the knowledge and skills that are required for a U.S. residency in OEM. A clinical externship is also a great way to boost the quality of your CV, and you may be able to get a letter of reference from an attending physician in the United States, which is required for some programs.

FMG Portal offers clinical externships in many different specialty areas, including occupational medicine. Contact us today to get help with residency placement!

Drafting a Personal Statement for a Medical Residency Program

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Earlier on the blog, we discussed the importance of brainstorming and planning out your personal statement. If you’re going to apply to a U.S. medical residency program in the fall, now is a great time to start writing your statement. From the first draft to the final copy, your personal statement will likely go through lots of revisions, so it is best to get started as soon as you can.

To recap the personal statement planning post, the content of your personal statement should highlight key aspects of your CV, explain why you have chosen your particular medical specialty area, outline your career goals, and demonstrate the personal qualities that make you a great candidate for a U.S. medical residency program. However, putting that down on paper in a convincing way can be a major challenge. Here are some tips to consider as you work on your draft:

 

  • Tell a story. Often, you can capture your reader’s attention by opening with a personal story or detailing a particularly meaningful experience that shaped your medical interests and career goals. Your personal statement can discuss experiences as recent as medical school courses and graduate externships, or it can reach as far back as your childhood — as long as your story is genuine and relevant to your decision to pursue a medical residency.

 

  • Think about your audience. The person reading your personal statement will also be reading hundreds of other applications, so you want to let your own voice shine through. That way, you can stand out from the rest. At the same time, you have to remember that the reader might not be familiar with some of the things you take for granted. Especially as a foreign medical graduate, you should make sure to explain anything that might be confusing — like differences in school systems — in order to clarify for your reader.

 

  • Pay attention to flow. On a similar note, you should make sure to organize your paper in a way that makes it easy for your reader to follow. You might organize it chronologically, or you could choose a cause-and-effect structure in which you show how various experiences directed you toward your goal of a U.S. medical residency. It all depends on the story you are trying to tell, but no matter what, your writing should flow easily from one idea to the next.

 

  • Keep it succinct. Many U.S. medical residency programs do not set out a word limit for your personal statement, but it’s usually best to keep it to 700 words or less. Remember that all of your academic and work experiences are already on your CV, so you only need to pick out the most important ones to talk about in your personal statement. That way, you can emphasize the most powerful information and avoid boring your reader.

Even if your first draft doesn’t come out perfectly, don’t worry! You still have lots of time to re-draft, revise, and edit until you have a personal statement that can truly impress the U.S. medical residency program of your dreams!

If you need help with the residency placement process, FMG Portal is here to help. Contact us today for more information!

Residency Specialty Spotlight: Pediatrics

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If you want to dedicate your medical career to working with kids, a residency program in pediatrics may be the right option for you. According to 2015 data from the National Resident Matching Program (NRMP), pediatrics was the third-most popular residency specialty area for foreign medical graduates, behind only internal medicine and family medicine.

As a pediatrician, you could work with infants, children, and adolescents, ranging in age from birth to 21 years. Pediatricians are trained to provide preventive care and treat a wide range of conditions, including hereditary diseases, infectious illnesses, and traumatic injuries. You may choose to work in a primary care setting as a general pediatrician, or you may specialize your practice on a certain area of the field. It all starts with a pediatrics residency.

Pediatrics Residency Programs in the United States

US medical residency programs in pediatrics last for three years and provide general training in the wellness of infants, children, and adolescents. However, because pediatrics is such a broad specialty area, the programs can vary widely between schools. That means that when you are searching for residency programs, you should pay careful attention to what makes each one unique.

For example, programs may differ in the relative amount of time dedicated to clinical work in ambulatory and primary care settings. The location of a school often plays a role in this, since some schools are located in large cities where you may end up working at multiple hospitals and outpatient centers, while programs in rural areas allow you to gain extensive experience working at one or two locations. There are also programs that allow you to focus your studies by pursuing a certificate in an area of interest, such as global health, community health, medical education, or academic research.

In general, though, you’ll usually spend the first year of a pediatrics residency building a broad base of knowledge and developing basic skills in pediatric care, through a combination of clinical and didactic work. In the second year, you will have the chance to take on greater responsibility in clinical decision-making. You’ll probably also have the chance to pursue particular areas of interest through electives. Finally, the third year of a residency program will give you the chance to step into a leadership role in the clinic and prepare for your future as a pediatrician, whether you choose to focus on a specific subspecialty or practice as a generalist in the field.

Post-Residency Fellowship Options

Once you finish your residency in pediatrics, you can start your career as a general pediatrician or you can apply to a fellowship program. Almost all pediatrics fellowships in the US require an additional two or three years of study, although there are a few one-year fellowships available as well. Although this is not a comprehensive list, here are some of the options you could consider:

  • Adolescent medicine (3 years)
  • Allergy and immunology (2 years)
  • Pediatric cardiology (3 years)
  • Pediatric endocrinology (3 years)
  • Neonatal medicine (3 years)
  • Pediatric infectious disease (3 years)
  • Pediatric emergency medicine (2 years)
  • Pediatric sports medicine (1 year)

Getting Matched to a US Program

If you are interested in a US medical residency program in pediatrics, you might want to complete a graduate externship or student elective in the field. Not only can these experiences help you decide if pediatrics is the right specialty area for you, but they also look great on your CV. Many residency programs also require foreign applicants to submit a letter of reference from a US physician, and an externship program is a great way to make connections in the States.

FMG Portal offers student electives and graduate externships in many different specialty areas, including pediatrics. Contact us today for more information!

Starting the ERAS Application Process

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The 2018 ERAS application season has officially begun! Now that the opening date of June 6 has passed, prospective residents around the world are starting to work on their applications. Here is a guide to get your MyERAS account up and running so that you have all summer to make your application shine.

Setting up a MyERAS Account

Before anything else, you need to set up an account with MyERAS. This part of the process is relatively simple. You just need to go to the AAMC MyERAS landing page and click the “Log in or Register for MyERAS” button. If you already have an account, you can sign in, but if it’s your first time on the AAMC website, you need to register. The registration process is relatively simple — you just need to provide standard personal information like your name, email address, mailing address, and home country.

You’ll also need to choose a username and a password. As with any online account, make sure that they are easy for you to remember (since you’ll be working on your application all summer!), but hard for someone else to guess (since your application will contain very important residency application materials!). For extra security purposes, you will also need to choose three security questions. Again, make sure you choose questions with answers that you will remember.

The final step in the MyERAS Account setup process is the email confirmation. If your email account has an automatic spam filter, make sure to add [email protected] to your list of allowed senders. The confirmation email usually comes within minutes. In that email, you can click the confirmation link, which will allow you to verify your information and log into the website.

ERAS Token Request

When you sign in to your MyERAS account, the first thing you will see is a place to enter your ERAS Electronic Token. The ERAS token is a fourteen-digit alphanumeric code that is required for you to start the application process. In order to obtain a token for the ERAS 2018 season, you must pay a non-refundable fee of $115.00 (U.S. dollars, payable by credit card). To get your token, you need to go to the ERAS Token Request website. On that page, you can mark that you are a graduate of an international medical school, which will take you to a form for foreign medical graduates. In that form, you will need to put in your personal information, as well as your USMLE ID to prove your ECFMG Certification.

Once you have requested and paid for your token, the code will be sent to you by email. For this, you will need to make sure that your email account will accept messages from [email protected] You should also print out the confirmation page for your records, since it functions as your receipt.

Although you can use the token to apply for residencies in an unlimited number of specialty areas, it is important to note that your ERAS token is only valid for one application season. If you have applied for a U.S. medical residency in the past, you still need to request a new token. This year’s token will expire on May 31, 2018.

Once you have your token and type it into your MyERAS account, you’re all set! You have until September 6, 2017 to get your application ready. If you need help with any part of the U.S. medical residency application and admission process, FMG Portal is here to help. We provide a wide range of resources that can help you show U.S. medical residency programs that you are an excellent candidate. Contact us today for more information!

Residency Specialty Spotlight: Dermatology

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As a physician, you may choose between a wide range of medical specialties. If you are particularly interested in focusing on the health of the skin, hair, nails, and adjacent mucous membranes, you might want to think about becoming a dermatologists. Dermatologists provide treatment for a wide range of conditions, including benign skin disorders, malignant diseases, and cosmetic disorders. Read on to find out more about what it takes to become a dermatologist.

Prerequisites for a U.S. Medical Residency in Dermatology

As a medical school graduate, before you can enter a dermatology residency program in the United States, you need to complete a one-year ACGME-accredited internship opportunity in either the United States or Canada. That means that, if you are a foreign medical student, you need to plan ahead! There are over a hundred internship programs available, so you have lots of options. Often, future dermatologists start by completing the first year of a U.S. medical residency program in internal medicine, general surgery, or obstetrics & gynecology. However, there are also schools that accept transitional year programs and preliminary medicine internships, so you can explore the possibilities and choose the right one for you.

Dermatology Residency Programs

After completing your one-year internship, you can enroll in a three-year dermatology residency program. Over the course of the program, you will gain hands-on training in both inpatient and outpatient settings, and you will also participate in didactic activities like seminars and conferences. If you are interested in research, you may have the chance to study either basic science or clinical outcomes, depending on your area of interest.

You will likely spend the first year of your residency getting a general education in medical dermatology and surgery in an outpatient setting. You may also be exposed to the specialty area of dermatopathology, which typically involves reviewing biopsies for signs of benign skin conditions or malignant diseases.

In your second year of training, you will likely perform rotations that will expose you to other aspects of dermatology. Aside from general dermatology and dermatopathology, some of the areas in which residency programs typically provide clinical experience include:

  • Pediatric dermatology
  • Dermatologic surgery
  • Dermatopharmacology
  • Phototherapy
  • Micrographic surgery
  • Laser and cosmetic procedures

During your third year of study, you will be challenged to deal with the most complex patient cases. That way, when you finish, you will be well-prepared for the responsibilities of clinical practice in the field of dermatology.

After Your Dermatology Residency

Once you have finished your dermatology residency, you may immediately begin practicing, or you can complete a one-year fellowship in a particular subspecialty area of interest. Fellowship options vary by school, but some of the most common subspecialties include dermatopathology, pediatric dermatology, micrographic surgery, and dermatologic oncology. 

Many dermatology residency programs in the United States accept foreign medical graduates, but they can be competitive! FMG Portal offers a variety of services that can help you increase your likelihood of getting matched, including graduate externships that can provide valuable experience in the field of dermatology. Contact us today for more information!

Asking for Letters of Reference for a U.S. Medical Residency Program

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Last week on the blog, we talked about who you might want to ask for letters of reference for a U.S. medical residency program. With the start of the ERAS application process less than a week away, you probably want to start asking some of the people on your list. If you are a foreign medical graduate planning to apply for a residency this summer, here are some tips to follow when asking for a letter of reference:

  • Ask early. This is probably most important thing you can do when asking for a letter of reference. That way, your writer has ample time to write you an outstanding letter. Even though the letter is not due until September, you have to remember that the attending physician may be approached by multiple students for a letter, and they may also have work and family obligations to fulfill over the summer. By asking early, you can ensure that your letter finds a place on the physician’s “to do” list for the next few months.
  • Phrase your request wisely. When asking for a letter of reference, you should do so in a way that ensures that the writer will be able to provide the kind of letter you want — a positive reference that speaks to your clinical skills, academic knowledge, and personal attributes. Therefore, you might want to use a phrase like, “Would you be able to write a strong letter of support for my residency application?”
  • Don’t take rejection personally. If you get turned down by a potential letter-writer, don’t be discouraged! As long as you have asked early, there’s still lots of time to find someone else who can provide an excellent reference. Plus, if the writer did not feel comfortable providing you with a positive letter of support, you would not have wanted them to contribute to your application anyway!
  • Asking over email is okay, but offer an in-person meeting or long-distance call. Unless you see the attending physician on a regular basis, it’s usually okay to send your reference request by email. However, sending a form letter can seem impersonal, so you may want to comment on how much you enjoyed working with them and include a mention of something unique about your experience. Also, you should follow up the request by indicating your willingness to meet in person to discuss the letter further. Of course, if you are a foreign medical graduate requesting a letter from an attending physician in the United States who you worked with during an externship or student elective, an in-person meeting may not be possible. Instead, you can suggest a telephone call or a video chat.
  • Be ready to offer additional information. Although you should not send your CV or transcripts with your initial letter of request, you should be ready to provide your letter-writer with information about yourself and the residency programs to which you are applying. They may also ask for a list of things you want them to highlight in the letter. Again, by asking for a letter well in advance, you can ensure that you have time to put together any additional materials they request.

 

 

Applying for and landing a U.S. medical residency can be a long and challenging process, but FMG Portal can help you get into the medical residency program of your dreams! Contact us today for more information!