International medical graduates, or IMGs, interested in filling family medicine residency slots may be eligible to get one-on-one advice on the process, as well as information on the U.S. medical system and culture. That's because the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates, or ECFMG, has expanded eligibility criteria for IMGs to become advisees in its IMG Advisors Network, or IAN.
Part of the ECFMG's acculturation program, the IAN was created to assist IMGs with the transition to working and living in the United States. IAN advisers have recent experience adjusting to working and learning in the U.S. health care and educational systems, as well as with settling themselves and their families in the United States.
The eligibility expansion means that IMGs who are registered with the Electronic Residency Application Service and with the National Resident Matching Program, or NRMP, now may participate in the IAN. Previously, IMGs were eligible to participate only if they had been offered a position in a training program accredited by the Accreditation Council on Graduate Medical Education and had submitted an application and payment to the ECFMG Exchange Visitor Sponsorship Program for initial sponsorship as a J-1 visa "alien physician."
According to Gerald Whelan, M.D., ECFMG director of acculturation, confining the program to J-1 visa candidates "restricted the access" IMGs had to the program. "There aren't that many J-1 (alien physicians), and the network didn't provide any assistance in applying to programs," he told AAFP News Now.
The IAN has almost 600 volunteer IMG advisers who are in, or have completed, a U.S. graduate medical education program and have a medical license in a U.S. jurisdiction. Currently, they work with about 900 advisees, although Whelan said he expects that number to increase by fall 2010.
Advisees are matched with advisers who have similar backgrounds, such as gender, country of origin, medical school attended, choice of medical specialty, practice location and family status.
The expanded advisee eligibility will allow more IMGs to find out about such topics as
- the residency matching process,
- residency program selection,
- preparation of personal statements,
- obtaining letters of reference and
- interviewing strategies.
Each year, advisees can get involved as early as August, which is the opening month of the NRMP application process, Whelan said.