Over the past few months, there has been a lot of talk about Indian students going abroad for medical education. More than 20,000 Indian students enrolled in Ukrainian medical universities have been forced to return due to the ongoing war. Hundreds of Indian students have also returned from China during the pandemic and both groups of students still face an uncertain future.
These situations have highlighted the shortage of medical places in India and the need for Indian students to seek admission abroad. While most view education abroad as an expensive affair, what many students don’t know is that they can actually study at nominal cost, or even for free, in many courses. In some cases, like a postgraduate medical course in the United States, they can earn between $5,000 and $10,000 per month as a stipend.
Medical Admission Scenario in India vs USA
There are about 42,182 PG medical places in India which includes MD (Doctor of Medicine) and MS (Master of Surgery) courses. This year, more than 1.6 lakh students applied for NEET PG and 89,000 of them passed the exam and will now compete for 42,182 places. This statistic shows that every year about 1.20 lakh students who pass NEET PG are unable to pursue their desired specializations and cannot pursue their career in India.
If you consider recent data from the US National Residency Match Program (NRMP), which is the official entity responsible for matching the desired specialty for international medical graduates, there are over 35,000 positions available for international students to PG courses. Indian aspirants are also competing for these positions. Each year, approximately 8000 students take the USMLE (United States Medical Licensing Examination) aspiring to a medical residency in the United States and 50% of them are eligible. If more students are familiar with the process and how it works, this number may increase.
Why is residency in the United States beneficial for students?
Currently, the Foreign Medical Graduates (FMG) Examination is a licensing test for medical students to practice in India. GMFs from Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States have been recognized as practicing physicians in that country and are exempt from this examination.
When it comes to finances in the United States, rather than charging students high fees for postgraduate medical education, tuition is free. Once students are accepted into the residency program, also known as the postgraduate medical education program in India, they receive a stipend of $5,000 to $10,000 per month, which is offered by all US universities .
On the other hand, a PG student at a private or reputable university ends up paying between Rs 1.5 to 2.5 crore for postgraduate studies in India. Apart from this, the number of specialization seats in India is also very limited with barely a seat or branch or specialization available. Therefore, students should seek another source where they can gain admission into their desired specialization for postgraduate study.
The residency program in the USA is a free program as they need high quality doctors, and most of the hospitals are well equipped with all the advanced facilities and medical equipment for diagnostic purposes.
There are 35,000 places available in 31 Disciples in the United States for which foreign medical graduates from all countries can apply through a common port. However, it is a very complex algorithm to get the right match and despite the high number of applicants, around 2000 seats are vacant. This is because students often don’t know how to benefit from the process.
What should an aspiring PG know?
The USMLE, although required for US residency admission, is not the only factor. Experts in the medical education industry said recent data shows that admissions in the past were largely granted on the USMLE score while in recent years its weight has dropped significantly in the admissions process. A student who passes the test is not always the best candidate.
Now, profiling plays a huge role in admissions. What applicants can do to strengthen their candidacy is to focus on building a strong profile. For example, most American universities are research-intensive and therefore it is suggested that students undertake research projects under the guidance of senior professors. Another positive is original research work by students published in peer-reviewed journals with an appropriate scope index.
Likewise, having an understanding of the latest rounds of admission (Match Day and SOAP) is helpful. Since there are several specialties, foreign medical graduates are asked to indicate their preferences according to a ranking list for the specialization that interests them. The NRMP uses a mathematical algorithm to match the program with the candidate based on their top-ranked preferred choices. It is imperative to understand and study how this system works to maximize the chances of getting a PG seat.
Important Dates to Apply for Principal Residence 2023
Here are the dates specified on the NRMP website:
* September 15: Registrations are open until January 31, 2023
* January 31: Standard Game Day Registration Deadlines and SOAP Process
* February 1st: Opening of the classification
* 1st of March: Ranking list certification deadlines
* The 17th of March: Match Day where candidates can find the result on the NRMP website
(The author is executive director of Astute Academy)