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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!