IMG Roadmap Series: Dr. Type A (IM)

Over the previous 2 years of sharing lessons from my life as a previous IMG turned attending, I have received multiple questions via Instagram from FMG/IMG’s alike.

I realize that everyone is different, and can learn from more than just my experience. To meet the diversity of possibilities IMGs can face, it is imperative to get several different opinions! There are IMGs now from all over the world: Africa, Asia, Middle East, Latin America, and even Europe and Canada!

The needs of this group vary greatly: including but not limited to visa requirements, study methods, a variety of educational backgrounds etc. No one fits a single mold anymore.

Hence, I have decided to start interviewing other successful IMG’s as we can all learn one thing or the other from how they studied and what they did to succeed.

The interviews in this series are anonymous, but I have created a pseudonym that best describes the character of the IMG/FMG doctor you will be reading about.

Let us start off with Dr. A’s perspective.

Dr. Lum: Please tell us a bit about yourself.
Dr. A:  I was born and raised in Bamenda, Cameroon. Attended med school there and graduated 2014. Matched into a US residency program in 2018. Currently undergoing postgraduate medical training in Internal medicine in Texas.

Dr. Lum: What is your current level of training?
Dr. A: PGY-1

Dr. Lum: Where did you attend medical school?
Dr. A: University of Yaoundé 1, Faculty of Medicine

Dr. Lum: What year did you graduate from medical school?
Dr. A: 2014

Dr. Lum: When did you take USMLE step 1?
Dr. A: Sometime in 2015
Dr. Lum: What score did you obtain on step 1?
Dr. A: 240

Dr. Lum: What studying technique worked best for you?
Dr. A: First, I watched the Kaplan videos and read the books. Next, I read First Aid step 1. Finally, I did Uworld, and read First Aid again. The total duration was for a period of 7-8 months.

Dr. Lum: How about Step 2? When did you sit for the test?
Dr. A: Sometime in 2017

Dr. Lum: What score did you obtain on step 2?
Dr. A: 222

Dr. Lum: What studying techniques do you attribute to your success on step 2?
Dr. A: All I did was Uworld. The total duration: 2 months.

Dr. Lum: When did you take step 3? 
Dr. A: 2018, while in residency training.

Dr. Lum: What score did you obtain on step 3?
Dr. A: 225

Dr. Lum: What study technique do you attribute to your success on step 3?
Dr. A: I did Uworld for about 5-6 weeks.

Dr. Lum: Did you take either one of these tests more than once?
Dr. A:  No

Dr. Lum: What study techniques/resources/question banks/books do you attribute to your success on the USMLE?
Dr. A: Uworld for all 3 steps. Additionally, First Aid for Step 1.

Dr. Lum: Did you participate in clinical rotations at any US hospital prior to match day? Was this helpful to your match process? If so, please explain.
Dr. A: I did observerships at a few US hospitals in Kentucky and Alabama. In my case, I don’t think those observerships made much of an impact. But, it sure does make your resume look pretty. So if you can get some observerships, especially at academic institutions, by all means, go for it.

Dr. Lum: Did you participate in research or an observership at any US hospital? Can you share what you learned from this experience? Was it beneficial to how you matched?
Dr. A: I did not participate in research in the US, but I already had a good research background before coming to the US.

Dr. Lum: Looking back at the journey to get to where you are at, what advice would you give to yourself looking back at the process? What has been your mantra for your success thus far?
Dr. A: Take the steps ASAP, as your chances are better as young IMG (< 3 years) compared to an old IMG. Secondly, aim for excellent step scores on the first attempt (repeating a step is not even an option). Finally, I cannot overemphasize the importance of NETWORKING. Through networking, IMGs tend to secure many interviews, and in so doing, give themselves better odds of matching.

 Dr. Lum: If you needed a visa (F1, H1B, J1 or B1/B2) for any parts of your training or time in the USA, can you please share important tips on the process?
Dr. A:  I’m on a J-1 visa. The process of obtaining the visa was fairly easy and straight forward. The most important step is getting a statement of need signed very early, which any director or top personnel at the ministry of health in your home country can sign. After that, everything else is very straightforward.


Have questions for “Dr. A”? Drop them below.


  1. Teni
    01/24/2019 / 8:32 pm

    Thank you Dr A for sharing your story. I would like to know if the difference between your step 1 and CK Scores was brought up as al cause for concern in any of your interviews and if yes, how did you explain/overcome it?. Thank you

    • 01/26/2019 / 12:21 am

      Just to add my perspective before DR A comes around to answer. My scores also varied greatly between step 1 and step 2. No one ever asked me about it on the interview trail.

  2. Emmanuel Nkodo
    01/24/2019 / 9:38 pm

    thank you Dr A for this feedback enriching experience. I am an IMG from Cameroon and i plan to sit for the usmle. Can you please share with us what study schedule did you use during the preparation for step 1?

  3. Shavitha
    01/25/2019 / 1:04 pm

    Thank you Dr.A.. Can you please elaborate on visa? How can we get into USA and then start step 1? How can I get visa as an img?

    • 01/26/2019 / 12:20 am

      Nowadays some people choose to take step 1 in another country (outside USA) to increase their chances of finally getting a visa to come train for residency ie J1/H1B. But if you are looking to take the step 1 in the states you need to apply for a visitor visa. Called B1/B2 visa. Also known as a tourist visa. Check the american embassy website for details. But ideally you’ll need to prove ties to your country, and also be ready to answer to why you cant take the test in your home country. Dr A took his tests outside of the States, I believe. So that is possible too.

      • Shavitha
        01/28/2019 / 1:10 pm

        Will it possible or enough time to do my step 1 through tourist visa?

        • 01/28/2019 / 2:21 pm

          You can sit the exams in the states with a tourist visa. The duration of your stay depends entirely on 2 factors; country of origin and US embassy you are interviewing at. For some African countries tourist visas are issues for 6-12 months at a time. For some Asian countries like India and China, such visas are issued for 10 years at a time. So yes, with the tourist visa you should have enough time to sit the exam.

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