Participation in U.S. graduate medical education by graduates of international medical schools

Acad Med. 2011 May;86(5):559-64. doi: 10.1097/ACM.0b013e318212de4d.


Purpose: International medical graduates (IMGs) are an important part of U.S. graduate medical education (GME) and medical practice. They make up a significant number of the participants in both the Electronic Residency Application Service (ERAS) and the National Resident Matching Program (NRMP). The authors analyze and report statistics describing the multiple pathways used by IMGs in pursuit of a U.S. residency position.

Method: This is a descriptive study of 10,328 IMGs certified by the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG) between July 1, 2005 and June 30, 2006. Linked data on this cohort were obtained from the ECFMG, ERAS, and the NRMP, combined with residency data from the National GME Census. The study determined the numbers of members of the study cohort who participated in ERAS and/or the NRMP in 2003 through 2009, and who found a residency appointment in the United States between 2003 and the first half of 2010.

Results: The IMGs in the study cohort began applying for residencies in significant numbers in the year immediately following ECFMG certification, but almost half were unsuccessful in their first attempts. Three-quarters of the members of the cohort had begun a residency by 2010.

Conclusions: IMGs make up a very substantial fraction of ERAS and NRMP participants. Although they face significant hurdles in achieving their goal, the majority of those who persist are ultimately successful. If enrollments and graduations of U.S. MD- and DO-granting medical schools continue to rise, IMGs' difficulty in finding residencies is sure to increase.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Accreditation
  • Career Choice
  • Cohort Studies
  • Databases, Factual
  • Education, Medical, Graduate / organization & administration*
  • Educational Measurement
  • Female
  • Foreign Medical Graduates / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • International Cooperation
  • Internship and Residency / organization & administration*
  • Licensure, Medical / statistics & numerical data*
  • Male
  • Specialization / statistics & numerical data
  • United States