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!

Residency Specialty Spotlight: Psychiatry

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May is National Mental Health Month, which provides an excellent opportunity for foreign medical students and graduates to consider a U.S. residency program in psychiatry If you are interested in working with patients who struggle with mental health conditions, a psychiatry residency can be a great option.

Becoming a Psychiatrist

As a psychiatrist, you would specialize the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of psychological problems and mental health disorders. For this, you would employ a wide range of treatment methods, depending on the patient’s individual needs. For example, you can practice psychoanalysis, utilize the techniques of cognitive behavioral therapy, prescribe medication, or use electroconvulsive therapy to help your patients manage and recover from mental health conditions.

According to the American Psychiatric Association, trained psychiatrists have the expertise to treat both the mental and physical aspects of a patient’s health, you might want to become a psychiatrist if you are passionate about both biology and psychology. Additionally, to be a successful psychiatrist, you must be a great listener and have excellent people skills, since so much of psychoanalysis involves listening to patients express their needs and analyzing their condition based on how they act.

Although psychiatry is not the most common residency specialty for foreign medical graduates to pursue in the United States, the growing diversity within the country had led to an increased demand for psychiatrists who are proficient in multiple languages and who are sensitive to the needs of patients from a wide range of cultures. Therefore, if your dream is to become a psychiatrist, now could be a great time to land a U.S. medical residency!

Psychiatry Residency Program Details

A medical residency in psychiatry lasts for four years.

  • In the first year, you will solidify your medical knowledge and develop a strong foundation in the basics of psychiatry through a combination of clinical rotations and didactic seminars. Some of the topics covered include psychiatric interviewing, diagnosis using DSM-IV, introductory psychopharmacology, and crisis stabilization.
  • In your second year, you will build on what you learned in the first year, gaining more knowledge in psychopharmacology, the diagnosis of more complex conditions, and consultation-liaison psychiatry. Additionally, you may have the opportunity to pursue electives in particular subspecialties of interest.
  • Studies in the third year become even more advanced. In many programs, the third year is dedicated to developing outpatient treatment skills, so you will be exposed to therapeutic modalities such as group therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavioral therapy, and advanced pharmacotherapy. Additionally, if you are interested in scholarly research, you might have the opportunity to work on basic science, translational, or clinical studies.
  • In the fourth year, you will have the chance to unify all of your knowledge and focus on your particular clinical or research areas of interest. You may be designated a chief resident, so you would hold a leadership position and gain experience working with the most complex patient cases.

After completing a psychiatry residency, you can begin practicing as a psychiatrist, or you can consider a one-year fellowship in a particular sub-specialty area, such as:

  • Addiction psychiatry
  • Child/adolescent psychiatry
  • Geriatric psychiatry
  • Forensic psychiatry
  • Psychosomatic medicine

 

Whether you hope to pursue a residency in psychiatry or any other medical specialty, FMG Portal offers valuable resources for foreign medical graduates. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you get matched to the program of your dreams!

Deciding Who to Ask for Letters of Reference

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The ERAS application opens on June 6, which is less than two weeks away! Although you still have the whole summer to get your application components together, you need to start thinking about everything you will need to do over the next few months. That includes brainstorming ideas for your personal statement and updating your CV. It’s also important to start thinking about who you want to ask for letters of reference, since you will need to give them ample time to write their letters.

Medical Residency Application Letter Requirements

Letter requirements can vary between medical residency programs, but most ask for three letters of reference. Some may allow you to submit four. As you research different residency programs, you should check to see if they have any additional, more specific requirements for letters of reference. For instance, some residency programs ask for both professional and personal letters of reference. Others request that you provide letters from attending physicians working in your particular specialty area. As a foreign medical graduate, you may also be required to submit a letter from a physician within the United States.

Who to Ask for a Letter of Reference

Letters of reference are an important part of your application because they can provide information about your clinical skills, personal qualities, work ethic, and interpersonal relationships. Therefore, your professional letters should come from attending physicians who know you relatively well and with whom your rotation was a success. Also, if you completed a student elective or a clinical externship within the United States, it is a good idea to ask for a letter from one of the physicians with whom you worked, because they can vouch for your readiness to complete a residency within the American medical system. In addition, some residency programs prefer letters of reference from rotations you completed during your fourth year of medical school, but it’s also okay to ask for a letter from an attending physician from a third-year rotation.

Although it can be tempting to ask for letters from residents or fellows with whom you worked more closely than the attending physician, most residency programs want to see letters from the attending. However, you could still ask a resident or fellow if they would be willing to meet with the attending physician to talk about your day-to-day work.

If a residency program asks for personal letters of recommendation, you have a much wider latitude of contacts to choose from. While most residency programs discourage you from getting letters from family members, you can ask a friend, mentor, coach, or other community member who knows you well and can help explain why you will be an excellent medical resident.

 

If you need more help with the residency match process, FMG Portal offers a variety of helpful resources. Contact us today for more information about getting matched in U.S. medical residency program!

Understanding the Requirements for ECFMG Certification

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As a foreign medical graduate, the most significant difference between your residency application process and that of an American student is the requirement for certification by the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG). This organization was founded in 1956 with the goal of ensuring that foreign medical students who enter ACGME-accredited programs in the United States are sufficiently prepared for the rigors of a U.S. residency. There are three requirements that foreign medical graduates need to meet in order to become certified by the ECFMG: application, education and examination.

Application

The first step of the ECFMG certification process is filling out an application. Any foreign medical student or graduate can apply, as long as you have earned (or are in the process of earning) a medical degree from a school that is listed in the World Directory of Medical Schools. To start the process, you will need to go the ECFMG website and request an identification number. From there, you can log in and start filling out the application.

Educational Requirements

The most important thing you need to do to show the ECFMG that you are ready for a U.S. medical residency is — of course — to earn your medical degree! You need to have completed at least four years of medical study at one of the medical schools that is listed in the World Directory of Medical Schools, and you need to provide documentation that you have completed all of the necessary credits for graduation. It is important to note that you can apply for ECFMG certification while you are still finishing your degree, but you will not be awarded a certificate until you have received your medical diploma and submitted your final transcripts.

Examination Requirements

After you have applied for ECFMG certification, you can apply to take the required exams. For ECFMG certification, you need to pass step 1 and step 2 of the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE). The Step 1 test covers the fundamentals of medical science — that is, the information that is typically covered during the first two years of medical school in the United States. The Step 2 tests examine your clinical knowledge and clinical skills, which you can build during medical school and by completing student electives and graduate externships in the United States. Once you pass these exams, you will not only have met the requirements for ECFMG certification, but you will also be eligible to take Step 3 of the USMLE.

It is important to note that some states have additional requirements that foreign medical graduates are required to meet in order to enter a residency program in that state, which can be found at the website of the Federal State Medical Boards. These additional stipulations include specific medical school training requirements, a maximum number of attempts on the licensing examinations, and completing the licensing exams within certain time limits. If you have your eye on a particular residency program, or you know you want to work in a particular city, make sure to find out about these requirements.
The long process of preparing for and applying to residency programs in the United States can be complicated and challenging, but FMG Portal offers valuable resources to help you get matched. Contact us today for more information!

Inpatient vs Outpatient Treatment Settings: What’s the Difference?

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If you are a foreign medical student thinking about applying to residency programs in the United States, one of the questions that you may be considering is the relative amount of time you will spend in inpatient and outpatient care settings. For the three specializations most commonly pursued by foreign medical graduates — internal medicine, family medicine, and pediatrics — the amount of inpatient and outpatient care experience you get can vary greatly between residencies, depending on the program. The right type of program for you depends on your interests and career goals.

 

Defining Inpatient and Outpatient Care

The term “inpatient care” encompasses all medical treatments that occur directly in hospitals, performed on patients that have been formally admitted to a facility. As an inpatient provider, you would most commonly be working with patients who have serious conditions that require overnight hospital stays. However, it is important to note that there are a wide variety of treatments that fall under the umbrella of inpatient care, ranging from common diagnostic procedures, like CT scans, to emergency surgery following a traumatic injury. If you envision yourself working in a hospital setting, you will probably want to look for a residency program that dedicates more rotations to inpatient care.

In contrast, “outpatient care,” also known as ambulatory care, occurs in non-hospital settings, like the office of a family physician, an outpatient surgery center, or a specialty services clinic. As an outpatient care provider, you would generally work with patients on a longer-term basis. For instance, as an outpatient family doctor, you would provide regular checkups, rather than just treating patients in the hospital when they are seriously ill or injured. If you are an internist specializing in endocrinology, you might prescribe a pharmacological treatment for patients with hormone-related diseases and monitor their care over the period of months or years, altering the treatment as necessary to improve long-range health outcomes and quality of life.

 

Choosing Between Inpatient and Outpatient Care

You don’t have to choose between a career focusing on inpatient or outpatient care before you apply for your residency, since rotations in both settings are commonly included within residency programs, especially those within internal medicine, family medicine, and pediatrics. But it can help to have an idea of which you are more interested in, so that you can choose a program that emphasizes one over the other.

One way for foreign medical students to gain experience in both inpatient and outpatient care is to complete a student elective program. In a three-month elective program, you have the opportunity to perform three rotations within the same specialty area, and you may be able to work under physicians in both hospital and non-hospital settings. There are also three-month plans allowing you to complete rotations under the supervision of attending physicians in three separate specialty areas, which can also give you the chance to gain experience in both inpatient and outpatient settings.
If you are a foreign medical student looking for an elective program, FMG Portal offers programs with both inpatient and outpatient availabilities. Contact us today for more information about the resources we provide.

Summer Plans for Clinical Experiences

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It’s almost May, which could mean one of two things: If you live in the Northern Hemisphere, summer is right around the corner, and you can start looking forward to longer days and warmer temperatures. If you live in the Southern Hemisphere, you’re probably getting ready for the longer nights and cold weather of winter.

Foreign medical students may not have the chance to take time off for travel during the summer months, but if you’re looking for a change of scenery within the next few months — or if you want to skip winter in the Southern Hemisphere — you might want to think about enrolling in a three-month clinical experience in the United States.

Clinical Electives for Foreign Medical Students

If you are currently a full-time medical student at a foreign medical school, a three-month elective experience is a great way to gain valuable experience in a U.S. clinical environment, particularly if you plan to apply for a medical residency program in the United States in the future. The most common option is to choose a program in the medical subfield in which you eventually plan to pursue a residency. Within the program, you will spend one month each with three different attending physicians within that specialty area. At the end, you will have gained hands-on medical experience, a better understanding of the U.S. medical system, and the potential for three letters of recommendation when you apply for your residency.

If you have not yet chosen a specialty area of interest, that’s okay too! A clinical elective experience can actually be a great way for foreign medical students to explore their specialization options. Some three-month clinical elective experiences allow foreign medical students to spend one month each with three different attending physicians in three different subfields. That can help you decide whether you determine which one you want to dedicate your career to, and it can also give you a better idea of how each one works in the United States. That way, when you apply for a residency in the United States, you will know that you are making the best specialization decision for you.

Applying for a Clinical Elective Program

It is important to note that many clinical elective programs require you to apply at least four weeks in advance, so if you want to spend summer in the United States, there’s no time to lose! FMG Portal offers clinical electives for foreign medical students at locations throughout the United States in a wide range of specialty areas, whether you want to focus on just one or divide your time between three. Contact us today for more information!

Residency Specialty Spotlight: Internal Medicine

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According to the most recent data from the National Resident Matching Program (NRMP), the most common residency specialty for foreign medical graduates is internal medicine. In 2015, 2,763 foreign medical graduates were matched to an internal medicine residency program. That’s 43.9 percent of the total number of foreign medical graduates who were matched.

What’s more, the proportion of foreign medical graduates who choose internal medicine has only been growing over the past few years. In 2011, only 37.5 percent of matched foreign medical graduates were in internal medicine residency programs, so the proportion jumped 6.4 percent in only four years. If you are thinking about applying for medical residencies in the United States, internal medicine is an excellent specialty option to consider.

About Internal Medicine Residency Programs

Internal medicine residency programs last for three years, and they provide broad training in diagnosing and treating diseases and disorders of all organ systems. These programs typically consist of a combination of clinical practice, classroom-based seminars, and research opportunities. In addition to getting hands-on training working with patients with a wide range of internal conditions, residents are also educated in relevant topics like preventive medicine, medical ethics, cost controls, and even providing medical education. If you engage in research during your residency, you will likely be encouraged to publish your work and/or present at conferences, where you can network with others who have similar interests in the field.

Upon completion of an internal medicine program, you would be eligible to take the certification exam offered by the American Board of Internal Medicine. At this point, you could go on to become a general internist, or you could choose to pursue a fellowship in a particular subfield of interest.

Preparing for an Internal Medicine Residency Program

As a graduate of a foreign medical school, one way to increase the likelihood that you will matched to an internal medical residency program is to complete a clinical externship in internal medicine or a subspecialty area within the field. Not only does this demonstrate your interest in internal medicine, but it also indicates that you have what it takes to be successful in the U.S. medical system.

If you choose a clinical externship in a particular subspecialty area, it can serve as a signal of your commitment when it comes time to apply for fellowships.Some of the specialties in which you may find a clinical externship include:

  • Allergy and Immunology
  • Cardiology (General, Interventional or Metabolic)
  • Gastroenterology
  • Hematology
  • Infectious Diseases
  • Nephrology
  • Oncology
  • Otolaryngology
  • Rheumatology

Overall, internal medicine can be a great residency option for foreign medical graduates. For help finding and getting matched to an internal medicine residency program, contact us today!

Eligibility Requirements for U.S. Medical Residency Programs: Information for Foreign Medical Graduates

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It’s the start of spring, which means it’s right around the time that fourth-year medical students and and trained doctors start to think about whether or not it makes sense to apply for a residency program for next year. If you’re a foreign medical student or graduate, and you are contemplating applying for a residency in the United States in 2018, your first order of business is to make sure that you are eligible and that you have a competitive application profile. That way, if there are any requirements that you still need to meet, you have ample time to fulfill them before the match process really gets underway in the fall.

Basic Requirements for ECFMG Certification

In order to apply for a residency program in the United States, you need to be certified by the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG), which is the organization that evaluates whether foreign medical graduates are sufficiently prepared for a U.S. medical residency program. The ECFMG sets forth some basic requirements that you need to meet before you can even consider applying for a residency

  • Educational Requirements. As a foreign medical graduate, you need to have completed your degree at one of the medical schools that has been approved by the ECFMG. You can find information about your school in the World Directory of Medical Schools. In addition, you will need to provide documentation of your degree and transcripts before you can complete the ECFMG certification process.
  • Examination Requirements. To get ECFMG certification, you will need to pass the first and second steps of the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE). The first step tests your knowledge of medical science, while the second assesses your clinical skills.
  • ECFMG Application. Of course, in order to be certified, you need to actually submit the application form to the ECFMG. You can begin the process as a fourth-year medical student by applying for a USMLE/ECFMG identification number, and you can take the examinations as soon as you meet the training requirements, but it is important to note that you won’t officially receive your ECFMG certification until you have actually finished your degree.

Visa Requirements

If you are not already a citizen or legal resident of the United States, you will need to get a visa. The two visa options for foreign medical graduates in residency programs are the H1-B (Temporary Worker) and J-1 (Exchange Visitor) visas. After being accepted to a residency program, your visa may be sponsored by your institution or by the ECFMG, but the United States has specific visa regulations for certain countries, so you may want to consult the U.S. embassy in your country in order to find out about possible visa restrictions.

Residency Program Requirements

Many residency programs also have specific requirements for foreign medical graduates. Depending on the school, they can include:

  • Medical school graduation year
  • Type of visa
  • Number of attempts on the USMLE
  • Previous clinical experience in the United States
  • Letters of recommendation from U.S.-based providers

If you have concerns about any of these factors — for example, if graduated more than a few years ago — you may want to skim through the websites of some of the schools you are considering to make sure that your degree will still be considered valid.

If you don’t have previous clinical experience in the United States, now is a great time to set up a clinical externship or enroll in an elective program for foreign medical students, which can provide valuable hands-on training in the American medical system and allow you to build relationships with recommenders who can write letters of support for your application in the fall. Even if U.S. experience is not explicitly required for your top-choice residency program, these experiences can boost the competitiveness of your application and increase the likelihood that you will get matched.

Need more help with residency placement? Contact us today!

Post-Match Day Advice: What To Do After Getting Matched

If you’re one of the thousands of fourth-year medical students who got matched on March 17, congratulations! After years of hard work, you finally have the chance to start working as a physician! But now that the initial excitement has worn off and you’ve celebrated properly, the start of your residency in July looms large, and there’s a lot to do in only a few months. Here are some tips to help you make sure that you will be relaxed and ready to go on the first day of your residency:

Image Credit: Flickr user Walt Stoneburner
Image Credit: Flickr user Walt Stoneburner

 

  • Shop around for housing.

 

After being matched, finding a place to live is probably one of the first things on your mind. It is important to learn about all of the housing possibilities: Do you plan to own or rent? Will you live alone or with roommates? Are looking for a place for just yourself, or do you have a family? How does a mortgage payment or rental fee fit into your budget? As you start formulating answers to these questions, you can start looking through real estate listings and Craigslist ads to find a living situation that best meets you needs.

 

  • Look into transportation options in your new city.

 

Some cities have great public transportation options, while in others, owning a car is a must. As you decide where in the city you want to live, it is essential to consider what forms of transportation are available, as well as associated costs, from daily bus fare to hospital staff parking fees.

 

  • Talk to current residents.

 

Current residents can be a great resource as you plan out your living situation in a new city. They can also provide more information about daily life as a first-year resident. Talking to them can give you a better idea of what to expect in your first year, so you can feel comfortable and well-prepared when you start.

 

  • Connect with your class.

 

Since all of the residents in your class are in the same boat when it comes to this next stage of your careers, it can be helpful to connect over email or social media. Not only will you get to know your future colleagues, but you can also find out where other residents are thinking about living, exchange ideas about transportation options, and share your excitement (and nervousness!) about getting started.

 

  • Keep track of moving expenses.

 

Remember, the money you spend on moving expenses in 2017 can be deducted from your taxes next April. That’s a whole year away, so in order to avoid having to rack your brain when you are filling out forms next year, it can be helpful to keep a spreadsheet of the money you spend on moving, such as moving trucks, apartment cleanings and travel expenses for housing search visits.

 

  • Take care of yourself.

 

After four tough, hectic and rewarding years of medical school, starting your residency is exciting, but preparation also can be stressful. Remember to take a breath and step away from the whirlwind of planning obligations when you start to get overwhelmed. Whether that means going on a walk, calling a friend, or catching up on your favorite TV show, it’s important to maintain balance in your life so that you will be healthy, confident, and centered when your residency starts in July.