In general, international medical graduates prove an invaluable asset to residency programs, strengthening them through diversity. These individuals offer a unique perspective, insight into a different system of values and beliefs, and an understanding of different forms of medicine. Unfortunately, Americans often associate “different” with “inferior.” As a result, many American medical graduates gravitate toward programs that do not accept many international graduates, believing them to be superior in some way. In reality, American medicine will remain forever indebted to the contributions of international medical graduates. In addition, these individuals often perform better than graduates of American institutions.
Unfortunately, international medical graduates still struggle to gain acceptance into American residency programs, largely due to prejudice, difficulties with visas, and a dearth of residency spaces. Once in a program, they often face discrimination from other residents, staff members, practicing physicians, and patients. Language often proves a significant barrier, especially when communicating with patients. While international medical graduates certainly possess excellent English writing and speaking skills, things such as regional differences, slang, and idioms prove difficult to understand. In addition, body language varies dramatically between cultures, requiring that the international students continue to learn American English expressions in addition to practicing their medical skills.
International medical graduates also struggle with differences in the medical education system, and Americans may mistake their deference for shyness or ignorance. Foreign graduates require time and guidance to grow accustomed to questioning their teachers and interacting with other students in a team-based learning environment, an educational system that remains largely American. For this reason, international medical graduates may want to research programs with instructors who have dealt with students from foreign countries extensively. These teachers generally understand how to encourage active participation from international students, and they have furthermore conquered their own biases against foreign education. International students may also want to make their intentions about education clear. While some come to the United States in order to stay and practice medicine, many plan to return to their respective countries and improve the medical systems there. Others may wish to do both.
International medical graduates can gain invaluable experience with the American medical system prior to enrolling in a residency program through AmeriClerkships. Clinical trainees work closely with attending physicians and other medical professionals, and later they receive an assessment and feedback about their performance. With AmeriClerkships, international medical graduates gain a strong competitive edge in the residency application process.