6 Prejudices All Medical Graduates Must Avoid

Having a certain attitude about a group of people grounded on assumptions and preconceived notions of reality based in fiction has a negative impact on the quality of care given by medical professionals. Foreign Medical Graduates (FMGs) are very familiar with receiving prejudice. They face it during their residency match, during training, and by patients and colleagues. They are criticized because they are unknown, and these prejudices affect their medical training experience. However, FMGs are not immune to having their own prejudices. Each physician, no matter where he or she went to medical school, must make a concerted effort to avoid common prejudices toward patients. In this way, you can ensure you are giving equitable care to all human beings.

6 Prejudices All Medical Graduates Must Avoid

  1. Weight Prejudice

An August 2019 article from Medical News Today notes that physicians may be prone to unfairly judging patients based on their weight. It told of a study where medical students used obesity simulation suits to appear like a diabetic patient with a body mass index of over 30. Researchers performed an Anti-Fat Attitudes Test (AFAT) to measure prejudice. The test was a 5-point Likert scale to rate statements about obesity. The statements blamed people for being fat, denied genetic variables, and linked obesity to laziness. Students reported that the suit enabled normal stereotyping of obese individuals. Females were stereotyped more than males, and previous research has shown that these attitudes make physicians less likely to pursue alternative treatments to weight loss. This could greatly reduce efficacy of treatments for obesity where depression or other health conditions were the root causes of obesity.

  1. Sexuality Prejudice

According to Flórez-Salamanca et al., there are negative health outcomes for homosexual people due to feelings of discomfort, communication problems, and the inability to develop a positive alliance between a provider and patient (2014). These authors also pointed out that homosexual people received unequal and lesser quality care. They recommend identifying these prejudices as a first step in eliminating them. Logically, it can be assumed that this would apply to all non-heterosexual preferences.

  1. Age Prejudice

Geriatric medical practice comes with its own set of challenges, and the elderly may have multiple morbidities that require complex treatment in an environment of poor understanding and compliance. However, not every elderly person has the same level of ailments, and those in the community may function as well as young adults. In either case, it is important to have compassion for those suffering from cognitive decline while also acknowledging that age does not automatically equate to cognitive decline. One of the very apparent results of this is under-treatment of geriatric patients because of an acceptance that their decline is inescapable.

  1. Cultural Prejudice

Foreign medical graduates come from different cultures and may face cultural prejudices every day, but they cannot extend those to their patients without risk of compromising care. The goals of medical outcomes for people from different cultures may differ from patient to patient, and this must be acknowledged by physicians in order for those outcomes to be positive. Additionally, the customs and etiquette of different cultures must be understood in order to properly communicate and come to a treatment that will be effective and the patient will understand.

  1. Education Prejudice

Education prejudice may cause a physician to dumb down language to a level that is insulting to a well-read patient. It may also be insulting to use elevated language in a way that offends the person with lesser vocabulary. Both of these situations can be frustrating and cause prejudice. A physician may feel that a person will not be inclined to comply with treatment if they view them as “lazy enough” or “dumb enough” to have not pursued education. Instead, physicians should try to see all people in a manner that requires “effective” communication instead of viewing it as substandard or elevated.

  1. Poverty Prejudice

Lastly, medical graduates may feel prejudice toward people who come from impoverished backgrounds, and they may not elevate treatment options like they would for a patient with private insurance who seems affluent. Sometimes, these treatment options need to be removed from the table since insurance nor the patient may be able to cover them, but they should still be considered as options until financial barriers are confirmed by the patient. Patients with less resources are no less worthy of care, and physicians must make sure they do not practice medicine with this prejudice clouding their judgement.

Prejudice Isn’t Always Known

Many physicians get involved in medicine simply because they want to help people, and these altruistic purposes do not coincide with prejudice. However, prejudice may be unknown and stem from environments where one was raised or exposures one has had to particular communities. The first step in eliminating their impact on medical outcomes is to identify them, and these six prejudices are common even among the most well-intentioned physicians.

Hahnemann Closure News

Hahnemann University Hospital, a Drexel University College of Medicine affiliated hospital, has filed for bankruptcy and is closing. Despite large protests including the appearance of Bernie Sanders, candidate for U.S. President and Senator for Vermont, the hospital has started its long list of closures. Today (July 17), the hospital stopped admitting patients who are already in the emergency department. Technically, the hospital is scheduled to remain open until September 6, but the emergency room is scheduled for complete shutdown by August 16th. Those deadlines seem to creep closer to the present as Philadelphia Academic Health Systems, the hospital’s parent company, continues with its bankruptcy proceedings.

What Caused this Hospital to Struggle Financially?

Basically, low-income patients with Medicaid and people with Medicare were a large cause for the struggle because these insurance companies are contracted to pay less than private insurance companies. Private insurance companies are supposed to pay more to make up for the revenue gap for government-provided coverage. However, inner-city hospitals have a large number of low-income people seeking treatment at their hospitals, and according to an article by Steven Church, they can detract those with private insurance because they don’t appear to be the better option. Interestingly, rural hospitals have the opposite problem because there is not a large enough population to turn a large profit.

What will happen to Hahnemann’s patients?

Hahnemann University Hospital sees 56,000 people in its ER annually. It is an important source of medical care in the Philadelphia community. Despite its monthly financial losses of millions of dollars a month, the hospital was not supposed to close so quickly. At the end of June, the city and the Pennsylvania Health Department ordered that the hospital not shut down until it had submitted formal notice of its closure, but Hahnemann started diverting patients that week. There is a minimum amount of time regulations allowed for a hospital to shut down any operations, which is 90 days, but Hahnemann has disregarded these regulations. The shutdown is set to continue in stages, and the other medical facilities in the area will have to take on Hahnemann’s patients.

What will happen to Hahnemann employees?

In short, they will have to find new jobs. Hahnemann started laying off workers this spring due to financial woes, and they will continue displace workers who will have to find jobs elsewhere.

What will happen to Hahnemann medical residents?

Well, if getting into a residency program through the Match wasn’t stressful enough, what is worse is losing that residency program. There are 571 residents, fellows and medical students that will be displaced by the Hahnemann closure. They can look for other residencies, but the programs have to sign off on the transfer of their funding, so they are stuck right now. Residencies are highly competitive, and being in limbo may force some residents to lose potential slots.

The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) tracks open residency positions at Find a Resident, and if there are unfilled residency positions available, Hahnemann residents will have the option of filling them if selected. Residency programs with the resources to handle more slots than they are currently allocated can apply for additional positions through the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME). However, it is not known exactly how Hahnemann medical residents will be handled. Most worrisome is the fact that there are 59 visa-holding residents who could be forced to leave without an alternative residency positions.

On a positive note, it looks like residents have been a top priority during this closure. The residency program may be sold to Tower Health for the price of $7.5 million, but it may not be large enough to take all of the residents. The ACGME has located 1,000 available positions, so this may not be a problem. Residents should not have too much trouble finding another program, but they are still being displaced, which adds to the stress inherent during residency.

A Tragedy on All Sides

It is rare to see a teaching hospital of this size close, and it is a great tragedy for the people of Philadelpha, PA as well as the nation. Losing a hospital means lessened access to healthcare services, and in this case, it will impact low-income populations disproportionately. This is one of the reasons there has been so much public outcry over corporate greed at the expense of the population. Hopefully it is not a sign of things to come, but news reports state many other hospitals in Philadelphia are struggling financially, so taking on an increased number of Medicaid and Medicare patients is not likely to help the situation.

For foreign medical graduates, this is one poor example of the dynamics of the United States Health Care System. Whether one agrees with the privatization of healthcare or prefers a universal system, it cannot be said that capitalism produced a good result for the public in this case.

Choosing a Specialty

If you have not chosen a specialty yet, you may have noticed that it is not as easy as it sounds. You may be drawn to one specialty, but more likely you are torn between a few or even many choices. Medicine is stimulating, relevant and fulfilling in broad specialties such as family medicine but also in narrower specialties such as radiation oncology. What draws you to one may be a lifestyle choice, or it may be a deeper calling. In either case, you want it to be a choice you can stick with for a long while.

What are my specialty options?

The American Medical Association (AMA) provides a database of 11,000 accredited residency programs, and that database is FREIDA. Common specialty choices are:

  • Allergy and Immunology
  • Anesthesiology
  • Cardiovascular Disease
  • Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
  • Colon and Rectal Surgery
  • Critical Care Medicine
  • Cytopathology
  • Dermatology
  • Emergency Medicine
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Family Medicine
  • Gastroenterology
  • General Preventive Medicine and Public Health
  • Geriatric Medicine
  • Hematology
  • Hospice and Palliative Medicine
  • Infectious Diseases
  • Internal Medicine
  • Interventional Cardiology
  • Medical Genetics and Genomics
  • Medical Oncology
  • Nephrology
  • Neurological Surgery
  • Neurology
  • Nuclear Medicine
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology
  • Occupational Medicine
  • Ophthalmology
  • Orthopedic Sports Medicine
  • Otolaryngology
  • Pain Medicine
  • Pathology
  • Pediatric Surgery
  • Pediatrics
  • Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
  • Plastic Surgery
  • Preventive Medicine
  • Psychiatry
  • Pulmonary Disease and Critical Care Medicine
  • Radiation Oncology
  • Radiology – Diagnostic
  • Radiology – Interventional and Diagnostic
  • Rheumatology
  • Sleep Medicine
  • Surgery – General
  • Thoracic Surgery
  • Urology
  • Vascular Surgery

This list can be found on the AMA’s website with links providing more training information.

How to Choose One Specialty

There are many ways to choose a specialty, and the advantage of doing it early is that you have more time to plan. First year medical students who successfully decide on a specialty can tailor every medical school decision to that specialty. However, if you aren’t sure as a first-year medical student, it’s better to wait than to try to force a choice too early. Here are a few ways to help you along regardless of whether you are entering medical school or choosing programs for The Match.

Set Goals:

You have to know what you want before you can start looking for it, and many medical students have misplaced dreams about reputation or riches. Entering a specialty because of the pay will not ensure a successful path to residency. Instead, focus on more functional aspects of the specialty such as the population it serves, geographic limitations, and lifestyle provisions. For example, you may find that emergency medicine hours do not suit your lifestyle despite the pay, and family medicine affords you the lifestyle you want to live comfortably and have time for leisure. On the other hand, maybe you want the excitement that the emergency room can provide, and saving lives in traumatic situations is fulfilling. If you want to fight infectious disease, there may be geographic limitations. There are factors in residency programs and the subsequent medical careers that are much more important than how impressive it is or how much money you make.

Gather Information:

Once you know what you want, you should find out all you can about the residency programs available. One way to do this is by attending residency fairs such as the AAFP National Conference or the AMSA Residency Fair. Looking on program websites is another way to find out if they offer what you are looking for, and you can find out if you meet the prerequisites to enter the program.

Ruminate:

You should be fairly methodical about your choice. That does not mean don’t choose from the heart…or the gut, but make sure you verify that with more objective means. Make lists of pros and cons. Research facts about job prospects and the future of the specialty. Get an idea of where you are going to have to live to support a career in that field of medicine. For example, some surgical specialties may not have a lot of prospects in rural areas where hospital resources are minimal. Spend a good amount of time reflecting back upon your goals and making sure your specialty reflects those goals. Then, make sure your heart…or your gut agrees. You should objectively and subjectively feel good about your choice.

Follow Your Passion

Money should not be the driving force behind your medical specialty choice, but it may be a factor. In order to live certain lifestyles and have the means to travel, you will need to make a certain amount of money. However, if you are miserable doing it, you probably won’t last. Physician burnout is a real thing, and even if you think you can hack it, long hours in a position you don’t feel passionate about will wear on you. Instead, choose a specialty in which you have passion. Stanford University has a comprehensive questionnaire to help guide you in your specialty selection. It offers a roadmap for the selection process, but there is no one way to pick a specialty. That is why this choice is worth so much of your time.

Foreign Medical Graduates’ Barrier is Red Tape

According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, the United States will suffer a shortage of 122,000 doctors by 2032, which is similar to past predictions by other organizations. As aging populations with multiple, co-existing morbidities continue to grow, a shortage of this magnitude should be worrisome. People are living longer, and older physicians are retiring. For many Americans, the idea of not being able to see a physician when necessary is unimaginable. However, it is quickly becoming a reality.

One solution to the shortage of physicians in the U.S. is to enable more foreign medical graduates (FMGs) to practice medicine. There are plenty of FMGs trying to advance their medical knowledge and careers by entering the U.S. for a medical residency. There’s also too much red tape for many of them to get through. Limitations on visas and residency slots hamper America’s ability to produce enough doctors to fill this deficit.

J-1 Visa

Most FMGs apply for a J-1 visa. There are multiple requirements to be eligible for this type of visa including:

  • USMLE step 1 and step 2 CK completed and passed
  • ECFMG certification
  • Position in a graduate program or medical school
  • Statement of need from Ministry of Health

After training in the graduate program or medical school is complete, the visa holder has to go back to their home country for two years. This is intended to spread the wealth of their knowledge gained in the United States to their home country. This prevents nations from losing all of their skilled workers and increases levels of global health. It can also present significant hardship for visa holders who may not get a chance to return to the U.S. Following the 2 year return to the home country, FMGs can attempt to change their visa to an H-Temporary worker, L-Intra-company transferee or U.S. permanent resident.

J-1 visa waiver

The two-year return to home country can be waived in 3 circumstances:

  • If applicant can prove he or she will suffer in home country.
  • If applicant’s absence will be a hardship to immediate family members who are U.S. citizens.
  • Sponsorship by an Interested Governmental Agency (IGA).

Once an FMG gets a waiver and a medical license, he or she can apply for a H-1B or immigrant visa.

H-1 B Visa

To get an H-1 B visa, an FMG must have passed all USMLE exams and have an unrestricted license to practice medicine. There is no 2-year home requirement, and the FMG can be employed in the U.S. for up to 6 years. This is the best visa option for FMGs looking to enter the U.S. for a medical residency.

H1-B visa requirements

  • Position in residency or fellowship
  • Medical school graduate
  • ECFMG certification
  • USMLE steps I, II, III passed
  • State medical license if required

The story behind H1-B visas

The purpose behind H1-B visas is to get employers the skilled workers they need for their businesses. Employers petition for a pool of visa numbers, and there is a cap on the amount of visas offered at 65,000 new hires per year with 20,000 extra slots for those who have graduated with a U.S. master’s or doctorate degree. This cap is always met quickly, and the majority of H1-B visas are not in healthcare positions.

Residency Positions

Although medical schools are trying to produce more medical graduates, residencies are not able to create more slots because of a cap set by congress on the number of Medicare-funded residencies. Congress has control of how much money is allocated to teaching hospitals for residencies. The 1997 Balanced Budget Act of 1997 and 1999 capped funding, and at that time, America was looking at a surplus of physicians in the future. Things have definitely changed, but the cap has not been adjusted to make up for the shortage, mostly based on budgetary concerns. Some hospitals privately fund extra residency positions, but the majority are funded by Medicare.

Protecting the U.S.

Much of the red tape surrounding FMG visas has been an attempt to maintain the opportunities for American citizens. However, H1-B visas bring in skilled workers, and studies show that they improve the economy. One study of an increase in H1-B visas predicted that it would create 1.3 million jobs by 2045. Foreign skilled workers and FMGs are not a threat to U.S. citizen opportunity. In fact, Americans need more FMGs training to become U.S. physicians to address the shortage of physicians.

It is clear that the consideration of FMGs has not been paramount to the decision-making of the U.S. government, or else there would be more residency programs and better visa options for FMGs. However, change is coming. The looming physician shortage is scary to all Americans, and it is stimulating people to come up with solutions. One of those solutions will surely be the promotion of more FMGs into U.S. residencies. There are not many suitable alternatives.

It starts with an ECFMG identification number.

What is EFMG?

The Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG) is the organization that certifies foreign medical graduates for U.S. residencies that are accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME). It is essentially like a Dean’s Office for all medical schools outside of the United States. The ECFMG certifies that the education you received abroad meets or exceeds the standards of the United States Medical Education System. Their stamp of approval means you are free to continue with the USMLE exams and onward into the Match to apply for residencies. ECFMG certification is not an approval into any residency program, but it makes you eligible.

How to get an ECFMG identification number

The first thing you will need to move forward with ECFMG certification is a USMLE/ECFMG identification number (web application here).  The information in the application must be legal and current, or you will not be assigned a number.

An ECFMG identification number will be used on all of your future USMLE and ECFMG application forms. For more information about ECFMG number details, see the ECFMG website.

How Much Does It Cost?

An application for certification from ECFMG cost $135. For USMLE step 1 and 2 (Clinical Knowledge, the fee is $940 each. Step 2 (Clinical Skills) cost $1,580. Rescheduling the exam or changing the testing region can add fees. For a schedule of all fees through ECFMG, check out this link.

What are the USMLE exams?

In order to get certified by the ECFMG, you have to pass the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE). Step 1 and Step 2 CK are considered the medical science part of testing, and this requirement can be replaced with a passing ECFMG examination, Visa Qualifying Examination, Foreign Medical Graduate Examination in the Medical Sciences, or part 1 and 2 exams of the National Board of Medical Examiners. The clinical skills portion of the USMLE is also required and can be replaced by passing both the ECFMG Clinical Skills Assessment and an acceptable English language proficiency test.

Is there a time limit?

The ECFMG requires USMLE exams to be finished within a 7-year period. The period starts on the exam of the first exam passed. You cannot get an ECFMG certification if you do not complete all of the exams within this time period.

Developing a Lifestyle for Success

Beginning the ECFMG certification process is arduous, but this process preps a medical graduate for the process of the Match and then residency. Rather than thinking about the extra work involved in becoming a medical resident, it is better to plow through the paperwork and make sure everything is done properly. This is part of developing a lifestyle for success that will get you to your end goal of becoming a practicing physician in the United States of America.

A Healthy Lifestyle is a Successful Lifestyle

The USMLE exams are tough, but so is the Match process. All the while, you need to keep your medical knowledge and skills updated by participating in clinical externships and anything that can add medical experience to your curriculum vitae. If that weren’t enough, it’s never too late to work on your interviewing skills. For the foreign medical graduate, it can be tough to get into a medical residency, so they must keep their health in top shape.

This means eating right, getting enough sleep, and exercising. A person who stays up all night studying will not retain information better than the person who stopped studying and got a good night’s sleep. Getting enough water, health food, and exercise also has performance benefits. You want a clear mind when you go through this whole process.

Planning is a Recipe for Success

There are many dates, fees, and plans that must be made in order to successfully get to the Match and land the residency of your dreams. It is important to keep track of all the dates because missing one can set you back an entire year. That may not be a lot in the whole scheme of things, but it will seem like a long time while you are waiting.

The Foreign Medical Graduate Bias

Unfortunately, the foreign medical graduate bias is not a myth, but thankfully, it is more often an implicit bias than something people outwardly feel and support. The world is more globalized than ever, but old habits and thoughts will persists through the generations. What this means for the foreign medical graduate is that you must now live the life of the physician you one day will be. In order to show residency directors with hidden biases that you are an excellent candidate for a residency despite your FMG status, you will have to make sure you meet all the requirements, but you will also have to present yourself in a way that is likeable, intelligent, and organized. It all starts with an ECFMG identification number, and you will begin your path to residency.

Clinical Rotations and Foreign Medical Graduates

What are Clinical Rotations?

In the U.S., the first two years of medical school are typically classroom lectures and book-inspired learning with very little hands-on experience. But applying these skills to real life medical situations is difficult without actual experience. That is why the third and fourth years of medical school include clinical rotations.

Clinical rotations are time spent shadowing physicians and residents in order to see what it’s like to truly experience practicing medicine. Students get to participate in the medical decision-making process, and they gain the invaluable experience about uncertainty and solution-making inherent in medical practice. This may be the first time medical students have dealt first-hand with patients, so it is really an opportunity to understand the physician-patient relationship.

Core Rotations:

Core rotations are not elective, but they may vary depending on the medical school. These rotations cover the breadth of general medicine. They may include family medicine, internal medicine, pediatrics, OB/GYN, psychiatry, emergency medicine, and surgery. The learning opportunities expand as the student progresses through the rotations, and they leave with a greater understanding of their future responsibilities and skill requirements.

Elective Rotations

Elective rotations are specified and more applicable to your future hopes and dreams in the medical field. These rotations may cover subjects such as ophthalmology or plastic surgery. Elective rotations typically occur during the fourth year of medical school. Because of this, it is easy to get distracted and focused on residency rather than rotations. This can make it difficult to select rotations, and the help of an adviser or mentor is suggested to keep you on the right path.

Clinical Rotations are a Job

One thing about clinical rotations is that it can be very much like a job, and it should be treated like a job. Even though there is no pay, and you may work long hours, this is very similar to what you will do as a resident and then a practicing physician. The hours and the work environment will be similar, and rotations are a first opportunity to experience “the real world” of a physician.

It would be a mistake to underestimate the importance of rotations, and a medical student should take it seriously. This means dedication, attentiveness, eagerness, and self-care to make sure you are getting everything you can from every moment observing others in the medical field. It is also a chance for networking, and some of the professional connections you make during this time will be life/career-long.

Clinical Rotations and Foreign Medical Graduates

As a foreign medical graduate, U.S.-based experience is a must. It may be helpful to get assistance from an outside source such as FMG Portal to help you get started. Any U.S. experience obtained prior to the Match will help a student get into to more residency programs, as it will look better on applications and during interviews.

Advantages of Clinical Rotations for Foreign Medical Graduates

  • Hands-on Experience: For all medical graduates, foreign or not, clinical rotations add valuable hands-on experience that cannot be replaced by classroom lectures. Students will learn from actual doctors and in the professional setting.
  • Letters of Recommendation: When applying for residencies through the Match, foreign medical graduates will need letters of recommendation from colleagues within the United States. This sends a message to residency directors that your educational background includes cultural acclimatization and that you have experience practicing medicine in the U.S. Healthcare System.
  • Performance Evaluations: Most clinical rotations offer performance evaluations where you will be informed of you strengths and weaknesses in certain areas of medicine. This is very valuable for future studying and in order to know where to get more experience.
  • Pathway to Residency: As a foreign medical graduate, you need local training to be considered for many residency programs, and clinical rotations provide a pathway for that to occur before graduation, so you don’t have to spend time after graduation getting experience before the Match.

The outlook for foreign medical graduates is constantly getting better despite political issues causing problems with visas, etc. There is a physician shortage that must be filled, and the American people and residency directors are consistently looking at foreign medical graduates as hope for a system that is lacking.

One of the ways that you can help foreign medical graduates (yourself) along is by making sure you have the background to show that you will be a formidable physician in the U.S. Clinical rotations are one way to do that. Not only do they give you added knowledge, experience and skills to help you practice better medicine, but they also make you look good to residency directors who may be concerned about your medical school experience. This shows them that not only is your educational background strong, but you have already had success applying it to patients in the U.S.

10 Habits to Prep for the Match

If you are getting ready for the Match, you should have already picked your specialty and are looking at different options for residency programs. As any medical graduate, this is not a time for rest following graduation. However, foreign medical graduates have a few more things on their list if they want to be eligible for the Match (visa, ECFMG certification, etc.) Your time during The Match should be spent actively engaging yourself in the medical community and gaining any experience available through internships or mentorships. It can get pretty hectic, and one of the keys to success during this time is the proper management of life. Here are a few habits that will prep you for your life during the Match.

  1. Schedule:

There are all sorts of deadlines and appointments you will have during the Match. You should have already developed your own system for successful scheduling. If not, now is the time. An electronic schedule via Google or other technology is advised as a primary calendar, but don’t be afraid to get creative. Always keep a master calendar, but if post-its help you to get certain things done, recognize that. Use the tools at your disposal, but develop good habits to make you less reliant on your creative tools and more reliant on dependable primary schedules.

  1. Look at Requirements:

Start studying residency programs immediately. Look at their requirements. Look at their statistics in regards to accepting foreign medical graduates. Talk to other residents, and make sure you like the environment surrounding the programs you consider. You cannot have enough information about your residency. The more informed you are, the better you will perform during interviews.

  1. Study:

You still have exams in the horizon, so this is no time to lose your knack for information retrieval. The medical profession is a profession for lifelong learners, so never stop. With that said, studying beyond your capacity will not yield any better results.

  1. Eat:

It is important to take care of yourself in order to maintain a smart mind and an active body. Both are going to be required if you are to make it through this time. Don’t celebrate your graduation from med school too much, and don’t waste your money on fast food. Drink your water, and prep your own food or choose healthy options. This will make you ready for every day on this adventure and keep your mind sharp.

  1. Sleep:

It will not help you in any way to stay up late studying. Your mind will be tired and won’t retain anything more than it would had you spent very little time studying. Save room for sleep in your schedule, and you’ll be more productive.

  1. Build your Team:

The path to residency can get lonely because there is so much to do. Don’t set aside friends and family, as it increases your risk for burnout. If you are in a new area, meet new people. You will need them to bring some of the humanity back to this process.

  1. Practice:

Practice your interviews from the beginning. By the time you get to actual interviews, you should have your answers polished and be able to answer unexpected questions with ease. Half of the battle with interviews is making sure your personality shows. Interviewers don’t want an automated response from a memorized answer. Practice is the only way you can deliver real responses to tough questions.

  1. Meditate:

Meditation can mean so many things, but in this case it means spending some time on yourself for reflection. A residency is a career path, and you want to make the right choice professionally but also personally. Add time for reflection, so you make the right choice for your personality and strengths.

  1. Have Fun:

While you do need reflection, you also need fun. Go to a comedy show, or go on a date. Laugh a little. Remember that you are a normal person and a physician. Forgetting that you are a normal person with normal needs will make your journey tough, but a little laughter can fix it.

  1. Exercise:

Exercise can be your way of meditating or your way of remaining healthy. It is a stress reliever and a mind clearer. There are rarely any bad side effects and typically only good side effects. It can be difficult to develop a routine with non-routine schedules, so make sure you have some way of fitting it in.

Does it seem like all of these things are impossible to accomplish? They probably are. You will not be able to check all of these things off of your list every week, and prioritization is essential. However, remembering that each of these things is important will help you to fit some of them in on your schedule, and your sense of self will survive this process.

How to Take Care of Yourself as a Medical Resident

If you’ve recently Matched into a medical residency program as a foreign medical graduate (FMG) or are just beginning the Match process, then you have been warned about burnout syndrome. This warning came not because of your status as an FMG but rather the overwhelming amount of residents and medical doctors who leave the profession because of burnout.

Burnout is described as mental fatigue caused by constant stressors. Stressors during the first year of residency may come from adjusting to a new location, missing family, large workloads and learning/studying demands. Additionally, physicians are expected to exercise empathy with patients in order to provide better quality care. This caring for others is essential but does take a toll on the physician’s self-care.

The results of burnout do not affect the resident only. While new physicians may experience depression, anxiety, disturbed sleep and co-existing effects of burnout, patients also suffer. Evaluation and treatment from a provider who is burned out will not have the same level of quality. The provider may not have the focus necessary to make a diagnosis, and they may lack the empathy to deliver care in a way that fits the situation. In more extreme cases, the resident will leave the career path. All of that hard work for nothing.

As a new medical resident, you might think that burnout is not in your future. Especially after getting Matched, you’re likely pumped up and ready to get in there and practice medicine. This is normal, and you should be proud and excited, but don’t forget that you need to care for yourself during this time. Preparation and studying is essential to a successful residency. Also essential is self-care. A little focus on yourself will make your hard work less of a stressor, and you will reap many rewards in the form of motivation and mental health.

Ten Ways to Take Care of Yourself as a Medical Resident

  1. Have a hobby:

Your hobby should not be your career. Since you’ve made it this far, you are likely very passionate about medicine. However, this isn’t what your colleagues are going to want to talk about at dinner parties (at least not the entire time). Not having anything else can remove your sense of self, and it can make you feel beholden to your career at an unhealthy level. You are not a physician only. You are a person who happens to be a physician. Right now that might be hard to believe, but if you have a hobby, you’ll get some of that back. Part of the reason burnout happens is because physicians get absorbed by their careers leaving very little left of the actual person.

  1. Live with people:

Another reason for burnout is that much of medicine is emotionally charged. You will deal with death and grief, pain and suffering. It takes its toll, and you need to talk about it. Living alone is a perfect way to sink into solitude and depression, but having a couple roommates will save you. They will not only notice your slippage into the doldrums, but they are there to lend their shoulders or simply their ears. Especially if you’ve moved away, having these types of connections can be very good for emotional health. If you are a private person, make sure you have your own private areas.

  1. Exercise:

As a physician, you know about the health effects of exercise. Don’t forget about the mental health benefits. If you can do it outside, even better.

  1. Journal:

Much like communicating with others, expressing yourself on paper is an excellent stress reliever. This is particularly important when you can’t really talk about certain situations aloud.

  1. Start a project:

Much like a hobby, a project is a distraction from your career and a reminder that you are more than your position in the medical field. Any project, even doing your backed up laundry, can have a meditative effect. At the end, you get a normal, everyday sense of accomplishment without the stressful grandeur that medical accomplishment can sometimes create.

  1. Eat and drink healthily:

Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and fast food. If you eat healthy, your mind will thank you. You’ll be less likely to suffer volatile emotions, and you’ll be able to persevere during those long nights and trying circumstances.

  1. Sleep:

Yes, you can sleep as a resident. And you should…any time you get. Long hours happen, but ensuring that you get enough sleep is important for your physical and mental health.

  1. Engage in leisure:

Leisurely activities are closely connected to well being. This isn’t to dissuade a person from hard work and studying habits, but even the grueling expected work of being a resident needs to be coupled with some leisurely activities.

  1. Meditate:

If you haven’t practiced meditation, it is a great way to center yourself and awaken your mind to the positive aspects of life. Finishing an effective episode of meditation is like taking a huge breath of fresh air. It is cleansing and invigorating.

  1. Laugh:

In the midst of everything, don’t forget to laugh. It truly is the best medicine for physician burnout. Get together with friends, watch funny movies, and tell jokes! Life is too short to live without laughter.

Residency is not easy, and you won’t have time to fit all of these activities in between the necessary demands of your career. But try to do some of them, and don’t forget to take care of yourself during this incredible and rewarding journey.

Residency Match Program Types

When you are considering residency programs, one of the things to consider is the type of program in which you will be seeking. This includes evaluating how you will personally fit into a program, if you got along well with current residents in the program and whether or not you can see yourself their long-term. It is less about how programs rank and the reputation of the program. If it doesn’t feel right during your interview and other interactions with people in the program, then it shouldn’t appear on your rank order list.

Beginning the Match process can seem overwhelming, especially after recently finishing the USMLE-2 exam. It seems like life is one whirlwind after another, and for the foreign medical graduate (FMG), there can be added stress in communication and logistics. With this may also come difficulty over Visa processing or difficulty getting ECFMG certification. It is not easy to maneuver life throughout your transition to PGY-1 (Post-graduate year 1), and one thing that can help is understanding how residency programs are set up. If nothing else, it clarifies a bit of the “mud” when you are trying to navigate the NRMP process.

One thing you may not completely understand is the program types offered through the Match. There are 5 program types available, and they each specifically coded for your rank order list.

How are programs coded?

Each program has a 9-character code that is recognized by the rank order list computer algorithm when you create your list. The first four characters are the institution code. The next five to seven characters are the ACGME specialty code, and then comes the program type or letter. Last is the track number, which is typically zero unless there is more than one track in the program. If there are more tracks, they are listed sequentially.

For example, anesthesiology programs at George Washington University – DC have the codes 1802040A0, 180204C0 and 1802040R0. Emergency medicine programs at the same university have the codes 1802110C0 and 1802110C1. The first four characters remain the same for the university. 1802 is the code for George Washington University – DC. The number 040 is the code for anesthesiology, while the number 110 is the code for emergency medicine. Anesthesiology offers three program types, advanced (A), categorical (C) and physician reserved (R).  Emergency medicine only offers categorical (C). The anesthesiology programs only offer one track, while emergency medicine offers two tracks. The second track is an international track.

You may not think it is important to understand how the programs are coded, but understanding the codes can help you to avoid errors when choosing programs for your rank order list. It also helps to understand that there are different categories of programs for planning purposes. For example preliminary and advanced programs are meant to be ranked together but separately, as the advanced program will be on your primary rank order list, while the preliminary will be on your supplementary rank order list.

What are the categories?

There are five categories of programs, and they tell you what post-graduate year they will start in along with the level of training offered.

  1. Categorical (C).

    If the program code has a C as its second to last character, it is categorical. This means it starts in PGY-1 (year one following medical school), and it offers full residency training. At the end of the program, a resident should be prepared for specialty board certification. Common categorical specialties are internal medicine, family medicine and neurological surgery. The length of categorical programs is 3 to 5 years.

  2. Primary (M).

    Primary programs are very similar to categorical programs in that they begin in PGY-1 and prepare the resident for boards. What makes M programs different is that they focus on primary care in that specialty. For example, they may focus on primary care in internal medicine or pediatrics. These programs may only take 3 years.

  3. Preliminary (P).

    Preliminary programs are to be coupled with Advanced programs (A). Common examples of preliminary programs are internal medicine and surgery. In P programs, the skill set learned is broader and covers a variety of disciplines in preparation for Advanced programs. They may take 1 or 2 years and begin in PGY-1.

  4. Advanced (A).

    Advanced programs follow preliminary and complete the full course of training began during preliminary training. Examples of Advanced programs are anesthesiology or dermatology.

  5. Physician Reserved (R).

    Physician reserved programs are advanced programs for physicians with graduate medical education. There are not many positions available in these programs, and they are for physicians that already have prerequisite resident training. These programs begin in PGY-1.

If you are beginning your journey to the Match, you may feel like it is a little premature to start figuring out the details of programs and how they are handled by NRMP to make sure your Match meets your needs and the needs of the program. However, there is a wealth of information and small details that can confuse the process if you aren’t adequately prepared. Casually studying these details will reduce the stress of the Match once it comes time for interviews and ranking.

Handling Doubters after a Successful Match

March 15th has come and gone, and the Match is over. Congratulations! You are now a first-year resident. You are also still an International Medical Graduate (IMG), and you might still face some criticism because of it. Don’t let this alter your excitement about your program. After a successful Match, every resident should be proud of their accomplishments.

You may have heard that people don’t care where you went to medical school. This is true, but only after you’ve established yourself. This means you may get asked and face unwanted opinions until about your second year as a resident.

Why Does IMG Criticism Persist?

The biggest problem medical professionals and the public have with international schools is that they are unfamiliar.  For the average American, The Medical School for International Health at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev could just as easily be a fraud as it could be a reputable medical school.

Additionally, fraudulent and substandard medical schools have made it to news headlines. Certain medical schools in the Caribbean have been criticized for overcrowding, high drop-out rates, and low Match rates. People don’t remember good stories. They remember the bad, and any bad press builds a bad reputation. Regardless of the truth, people associate foreign education with substandard education.

Of course, this is not the truth, and you wouldn’t be Matched if you didn’t receive a good education. So, what can you do about this persistent doubt people, even colleagues, have about your educational background?

What to do when they doubt your education:

  1. Be Proud.

You know what you had to do to get your medical degree. You know why you chose your medical school. Not only that, but you know what it took to get certified by the ECFMG. None of these things are easy, and you should be proud of what it took to get where you are today.

Furthermore, you must be sure of yourself in order to practice medicine well. If you are seeing patients and doubting your education, then you won’t be able to correctly make life-saving decisions.

Lastly, you are now a resident, but that does not mean you won’t burn out. You still have crazy schedules, stressful situations, and not much time for personal life. If you add guilt over your education, it may be too much. Be proud of your accomplishments because you should be proud, and that pride will give you the boost you need to practice good medicine.

  1. State Facts.

If you must, defend yourself. The ECFMG won’t certify a person that was education in a substandard institution. Also, all IMGs take the same USMLE exam as non-IMGs. The criteria are the same for all medical students. Explain to people how you took the same tests and went through the same Match process, and open their eyes.

Many opinions about foreign education are not well thought out. It’s more of a prejudice than a real opinion. It’s like thinking all Germans like beer and all Chinese like math. Nobody logically believes that this overgeneralization can be true, but people will think they believe things until presented with facts.

Even your peers and colleagues may unintentionally harbor prejudices against your training abroad. Simply reminding them that you had to face the same hurdles as other residents can be a good reminder to them, so they don’t forget and fall back on their prejudice. Just remember, don’t get defensive. As the saying goes, the best defense is a good offense. Be prepared with facts, but don’t get offended.

  1. Ignore it.

If you can muster the internal fortitude to ignore criticism, go ahead! This too shall pass, and eventually you will either show people your ability, or eventually people will stop caring where you went to medical school. You are a physician, and once you get through residency, most everyone will accept that you are trained well.

Ignoring criticism about your education is only an option, and if you must say something, that is fine. Opt for ignoring criticism when it will not help the situation or when you fear you may get argumentative.

  1. Engage.

Don’t hide from people, so they don’t find out that you went to an international medical school. Engage with people. Throw it in their face. The more they have to work with you, the more you will validate your education. Not only will this help others to appreciate your education, but it will help you to build pride in yourself.

  1. Make Connections.

Make sure you take care of your mental health by making connections. Join a social media group, or network with friends, so you can have a forum for discussing things like this. It is difficult to find time for things like this during residency, but you must. If you face a lot of criticism, it may get into your head. There’s nothing like like-minded friends to get you back on your feet.

Congratulations!

You have Matched, and your training and experience are awesome, which is why you Matched. Unfortunately, you will face a bit more judgement about your education abroad, but dealing with it appropriately will help you through this. Be proud! You deserve to be here!