Apply to programs before October 21st deadline

Residency programs will be reviewing applicant materials immediately after it is available October 21st. Applicants should have all their materials completed before October 20th so their is no problem uploading information at the last minute. It is very important to apply to the programs you are interested in before the first day that residency programs can begin reviewing material.

If you have below average board scores or have failures or a low GPA, apply to community programs, rural programs and urban programs which did not fill in the past. Also look at programs that participate in pre-match or programs which don’t participate in match at all. It is better to be in a position to have a job to consider rather than have no job offer at all. This is especially true for US and non-US IMG students and prior year graduates.

Do not procrastinate or assume it will be OK. This is a mistake. You must plan and prepare. This is the time to start mock interviews. You need to have your communication skills prepped and ready. If you need motivational tools consider a poster or pillow or sticky note to yourself. Remember you are running a marathon, and you need to keep up with all the details.

Seeking American Dream

Two dreams are converging in the life of Nigerian immigrant, Ayesan. As a child he endured ten years of tribal wars in his small town. In elementary school, he survived attacks which left children dead. He survived being caught in the crossfire between warring parties, while returning home from school. While these things were occurring, he was simultaneously worrying if his family at home was also under attack. He describes this time as living through the highest form of fear that existed.

Even though he was the youngest of seven children, he was his father’s caretaker, responsible for administering oxygen for his COPD. Later he would realize that providing compassionate care for others, like he did for his father, was innate for him. He became fascinated with the doctor who cared for his father and followed his instructions carefully on administering medicine. He had already viewed the few Red Cross volunteers, who helped hold his community together, as superheros.

His family viewed education, as important as food and water. He devoted his time to studying in the hope of a better future and being able to help people. His father tutored him until his death, just before he made it to medical school. His value for education earned him an award from Chevron University as one of the best 100 first-year medical students in select Nigerian Universities.

When he completed his internship and his work for the government as a medical officer in Nigeria, he had participated in the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief with outcomes of a 25% reduction in HIV in the community and mother to child transmission. He regularly treated cases of malaria, typhoid fever, tuberculosis, and cholera. He developed and implemented and immunization program which inoculated 800 children and initiated clean drinking water program which decreased cholera by 10%. His passion for helping people was clear, he was helping people, just like he cared for and helped his father.

He achieved his goal of being a physician, but he had another dream, the American dream. Over time and through hard work, he saved money to travel to the U.S. and arrived on Independence day, which for him, had become truly special. He began the process of seeking residency so he could practice medicine in the U.S., doing externships, observations, internships, and completed a Master of Science in Clinical Research. He is actively seeking a residency program in order to fulfill the final portion of his dream.

The journey from a small child living in daily fear for his life, to physician seeking residency, is unimaginable for many. How many people could have made that journey? Some look at his application for residency and see test scores, or don’t even get that far. He is so much more than a score.

If you listen to his story, you can understand how far he has come in life, so far. This is not the end of his story, it is just a point in the timeline of his life. He only needs someone to have faith in him, and he can obtain his dream of being a doctor in the U.S. What will he aspire to for his next goals? Based on his former goals, it will be big.

With $996 million in assets, the AMA needs to do more

According to the AMA’s Annual Report, it has $ 996.7 million in assets. During the COVID-19 pandemic, it is more important than ever, for the AMA to spend more of it’s assets advocating for reform by the government and the healthcare industry. The American healthcare system has been broken for decades and has never been more dysfunctional than it is today. Recently, the Supreme Court ruled against the AHA’s lawsuit to keep private negotiated rates with insurers secret from patients. Insurance coverage and costs for COVID-19 change daily. You need a chart to see what health insurance companies cover for COVID-19. Drug companies continue to make billions of dollars, but increase rates for life-saving drugs like insulin because they can. The status quo is not OK.

This is the time for the AMA to step up and lead. The AMA is powerful and many members are fearful of speaking truth to power, but people must remember that there is power in numbers. The AMA must listen to voices for change and start lobbying harder for reform. Spend more of their reserves on lobbying now. What are they saving $996 million in assets for? Today, there were 50,000 Americans newly diagnosed with COVID-19, with some states hospital intensive care units close to capacity.

Doctors are paying the price for broken systems. The cost is exhaustion, infection and demoralization. Speak up now. Contact the AMA and tell them you want them to lobby harder for healthcare reform. Doctors need to be the authorities on illness, not politicians. Doctors need to lead the reform, not bureaucrats. The AMA needs to work harder for physicians.

The ERAS system must change

It is time for ERAS to change. Students are paying too much for applications in ERAS. Program Directors are able to use tools in ERAS to filter out applicants. The number of applications to programs has grown significantly, but ERAS continues to allow more applications to programs, than there are positions. In fact, many more applications. Programs receiving thousands of applications for a handful of positions, is not unheard of. Program Directors are allowed to set parameters, screening out applications without ever looking at the applicants.

Why doesn’t ERAS require the programs to disclose this information in advance to applicants, so they can save money? If programs decide that they will not look at an application, if the student has a failure on a step, why is that information so hard to find? Applicants should be able to screen out programs in ERAS, the same way programs can screen applicants. Why would an applicant apply to a program if the program says that they will not look at his/her application? Applicants could save hundreds to thousands of dollars if they knew this information in advance of applying to programs.

ERAS should allow applicants to search by every question possible. Will the program take an applicant who needs a visa? What about a failure on a board? Why isn’t this information easier to find. Many students have to make excel spreadsheets and search for this information in multiple places. What a waste of time when this process can be automated.

How much money does ERAS make on student applications? This organization is meant to serve students. Students already have hundreds of thousands of dollars in student loan debt. Why doesn’t ERAS give applicants more options to save money?

Changes to the computer program can be made. Write new ERAS program requirements for the project and improve it for the benefit of students. Do the right thing for future doctors applying to residency programs. Change for the better. Students have little choice, but to use this system to apply to most programs. ERAS has a choice to change.

Please contact ERAS and tell them to give students more filters so they can apply to programs which will actually be interested in their application and offer them an interview. Ask for change to the system. Ask for improved outcomes for the people they serve.

It’s the journey

This month, many will begin new residency programs, but some will not. Thousands of graduates from international medical schools, who applied to residency programs, did not match into positions. They are left feeling deflated, depressed, and a little lost on their dreams. The complication of COVID-19 has added to the stress and despair of the situation. I recently saw a Facebook group for old medical school graduates seeking the American dream. When you hear the stories of medical school graduates seeking the American dream, you cheer for them inside. You begin to try and find a way to help people to make their dreams come true.

Sometimes people become distraught when they do not match, but life is about the journey. When a hard-working person sets a goal and does not meet it, it can cause anxiety about the future. The challenge is to accept where you are today and make a plan for next steps.

Many people think their lives should be linear and follow a prescribed pathway, but when you look back at some of the most famous people in history, it was the diversion from the path that taught them the most and made them great. Do not let your emotions lead you down a dark pathway. Use your intellectual skills to look at your options and plan for the future.

Find someone who has lived the life that you seek and ask them about their story. Listen to their journey, ask for their advice, envision your future possibilities. The American dream is here for everyone. Find your dream.

2021 Match off to rough start

ERAS is open for all applicants to enter tokens and begin completing 2021 Match applications. Unprecedented changes to the application process have caused increased anxiety for many applicants, especially IMGs. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused international travel restrictions, the halting of observerships, and rotations, proposed video interviews replacing in-person visits, government changes in access to visas, a temporary halting in USMLE testing and a temporary change in the certification process.

More students are graduating this year than ever before because of the increase in medical school class sizes and new medical schools across the county, with an unmatched number of new residency positions.

The key to managing anxiety is to get your information from the source, not speculative groups on social media, which may be interpreting the information wrong. Social media groups are good for emotional support from people who are going thru the same stressors, but not always good for accurate data.

The organizations that support your interests will advocate for the applicants during this difficult time. For example, the ECFMG immediately began working to identify alternative pathways to resolve the issue of the temporary suspension of USMLE Step 2 CS. The ECFMG identified 5 pathways for international medical graduates to obtain certification for the 2021 Match. The ECFMG has provided detailed explanations for each pathway These pathways only apply to the 2021 Match.

When you hear of new changes, and you will, give the organizations some time to organize and provide solutions for the issues. Their goals are to make the process fair and manageable. They are just as surprised by some of these changes too.

2021 ERAS Season Open

As the 2021 ERAS season begins, students and graduates are issued tokens from their medical schools to begin the application process. International Medical Graduates will get their applications from the Education Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates. It is important to emphasize the slow and thoughtful completion of the ERAS application. Sloppy work and inconsistent information indicates that the applicant does not think paperwork is important and that is a big red flag for programs.

Go slow and be accurate while completing the information. Remember to use complete sentences in your answers. Be consistent in verb tense throughout the application. Fill out one section at a time and stop and find information when not sure about the correct answer.

This year applicants have extra time before programs can review applications, so do everything right. Do not wait to finish the application to begin asking preceptors for Letters of recommendation. It takes time for doctors to write and upload these and they may have many letters to upload so give them as much time as possible to do this.

The 2021 ERAS season will have more challenges then ever before, but don’t wait for a later season to apply. Medical schools are graduating more and more medical students each year, but new residency positions are not keeping pace with the increase. Each year, the competition will become more intense, so now is the time to apply. In addition to starting the application, start researching programs. This can help in deciding how to frame some of the answers on the application.

Finally, before verifying and submitting the application, have someone review it for spelling, grammar, and clarity in information. This will be the first impression to medical schools. It needs to be the best possible. Good luck.

USMLE Suspends Step 2 Clinical Skills Exam

Due to the complexity of technical and psychometric work, USMLE will not meet timelines for the release of a revised exam and has suspended Step 2 CS test administrations for the next 12-18 months.

USMLE is committed to the valid, standardized measurement of skills for licensure and will determine the safest way to do exams. More detailed information released soon.

ERAS date changes and Prometric Center openings

In consideration of the amount of stress on students taking exams, and the additional impact of cancelled exams, and closed facilities, the USMLE has postponed content changes to Step 1 and Step 2 CK tests until September 2020. USMLE. Steps 1, 2 CK, and 3 testing has resumed at select Prometric centers, and they will continue additional openings at sites based on state and local laws around social distancing related to COVID-19.

USMLE announced pilot testing starting next week for Phase One regional testing centers at medical schools, followed by event-based testing at medical school in June to August.

The ERAS timelines have been modified for the 2021 ERAS season. Applicants need to ensure they are reading the 2021 schedule.

June 8 US graduate applicants can register and begin their applications.

June 23 tokens will be issues to IMG applicants to register and begin applications.

September 1 applicants may begin submitting applications to programs.

October 21 MSPE’s will be released to programs and programs may begin reviewing applications.

There are several good things that will come out of these changes. First, the later date will allow additional rotation comments to be included in the MSPE letter. It will also allow students to rotate at an additional rotation before the MSPE letters go out, which may effect the student’s application to a program. It will also close the gap between the application date and the release of the MSPE letter, making review of materials easier and complete at one time. Interview offers should go out more uniformly, instead of some programs making offers between the application time and the release of the MSPE.

Most importantly, continue to verify data from the original source to ensure accuracy. Word of mouth can be inaccurate and cause errors in application timelines.

Residency Program Directors-List pending programs

Newly accredited programs are announcing openings for the 2020 season. For medical residency program directors awaiting accreditation for a new program. Thousands of NRMP applicants are still looking for a residency position. Please consider listing program information now, instead of later. Some programs have listed information about their pending accreditation and the specialty with the disclaimer that they are awaiting an accreditation decision. This could help facilitate a quicker selection of residents and smoother transition into the program. Please fill every position possible, as each year there will be more applicants graduating, but the same number of residency positions available. This month will be challenging as applicants try and decide on committing to research positions, jobs or to wait as long as possible to see if a position opens up. Thank you for creating the best situation for all sides of the equation.