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.
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.