Applying for Medical School in the US and Abroad

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Foreign medical school graduates have about a 50 percent chance of matching into a residency program in the U.S.

Americans navigating the possibility of attending medical schools in other countries have a lot of options. But the decisions they make can restrict their choices down the road, including getting into a residency program on U.S. soil.

Foreign medical school graduates, including U.S. citizens, have about a 50 percent chance of matching into a residency program in the U.S., while graduates of American medical schools match at a rate greater than 95 percent.

That said, nearly a quarter of doctors practicing in the United States did their medical training in another country.

Studying Abroad

In 2014, The New York Times profiled Americans studying at St. George’s University School of Medicine in Grenada, one of 70 medical schools in the Caribbean. Nearly 8,000 St. George’s grads are practicing physicians in the U.S.

Corinne Vidulich, a Hunter College grad, opted for St. George’s after she was waitlisted at Albert Einstein Medical College in the Bronx, learning two weeks before classes started that she didn’t get in.

A bio major, she had a GPA of 3.98 and was co-valedictorian. But her skills on the verbal section of the entrance exam were so dismal an interviewer asked if English was her second language.

She got a scholarship through a partnership between St. George’s and the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation, agreeing to work for four years in a city hospital serving poor patients.

Vidulich told the Times she had no regrets about taking an alternative path to her M.D. “I am truly proud of it,” she said. “We wanted it more than anything.”

She is now in the Phelps Family Medicine Residency program at New York Medical Center.

The Most Straightforward Route

Across the border, Canada reserves 90 percent of its seats in medical schools for students who are residents of that province; the other 10 percent are for students from other provinces. As a result, it’s highly unlikely that students who have not become Canadian citizens would be accepted to med school.

It’s easier for Canadians to get accepted into U.S. med schools. In fact, Penn State, George Washington, Albert Einstein, Medical College of Wisconsin, and Yale all view Canadian applicants the same as U.S. citizens.

The first choice for Erika Steels was medical school in her native Canada.

“I have always dreamed of practicing in Canada so that I could serve the communities I grew up in,” she says. “When I started to investigate my options for medical school I realized that the most straightforward route to achieve this goal is directly from a Canadian program.”

A fourth-year med student at the University of British Columbia, Steels considered the obstacles she might face in obtaining a match for a residency if she attended a foreign school.

“Many international medical students choose to return to Canada after they have completed training elsewhere, and although it is certainly possible to return, there are some hurdles that need to be overcome,” she said.

That said, she has friends who have opted for med schools outside Canada with positive results. “

They speak very highly of their experiences at these institutions and feel competent and well-prepared at the end of their training,” she says.

Alicia Lazzaro