The IMG Roadmap Series #2: The Eye Surgeon (Ophthalmology)

Dr. Adepoju is dubbed “The Eye Doctor” in this series. I thought it was a fitting play on words as she currently an ophthalmology resident with pearls to share on her medical journey. I admire her perseverance, determination, patience, and success. Read on! I hope you glean some insight from this cheerful ophthalmologist!

Thank you, Doctor Adepoju for accepting to be interviewed by We will jump right into the Q& A.

Dr. Lum:  Please tell us about yourself.
Dr. Adepoju: My name is Tomilade Adepoju, I’m a first generation Nigerian-American. I attended Rutgers University where I received my bachelor’s degree in Biological Sciences with a minor in Public Health. I subsequently attended American University of The Caribbean School of Medicine where I received my Doctor of Medicine degree. I made the decision to attend AUC in St Marteen after initially attending a Post-Baccalaureate program at Drexel University, my goal was to matriculate into their medical school upon successful completion of the program. However I was involved in a car accident halfway into the program that took me out of school and as a result, I could not complete the program. It was this event that prompted me to apply to medical school in the Caribbean in an attempt to not miss out on another year of school. Now I am currently a PGY-2 in an Ophthalmology Residency at Nassau University Medical Center in Long Island New York and loving every single moment of this journey.

Dr. Lum:  When did you take USMLE step 1?
Dr. Adepoju: I took Step 1 in June 2014.

Dr. Lum:  What studying technique worked best for you? Or what do you recommend as the ideal study schedule for a great score?
Dr. Adepoju: I am a visual learner so I LOVED videos when studying for Step1. I essentially used a combination of DIT Videos and Kaplan Videos. I used DIT videos when I needed a quick refresher when I was just studying to pass my school’s comprehensive exam. I then watched Kaplan videos when I was studying for Step 1 for a more in-depth review. All the while I was doing Uworld questions. I had gotten through U world about 1.5 times by the time I took Step 1. I also want to stress that when I was studying for these exams it was not the first time I was using these video tools, I would watch them while I was taking the actual class. I believe Step1 studying is easier when you are only reviewing and not trying to learn topics for the first time by the time you are taking the test.

Dr. Lum: When did you take USMLE step 2?
Dr. Adepoju: I took Step 2 in August 2015.

Dr. Lum: What studying techniques do you attribute to your success on step 2? What books, resources do you attribute to your success on CK and/or CS?
Dr. Adepoju: I had a much shorter time to review for Step2, I had less than 3 weeks of concentrated studying. I really try to stress the importance of studying well during the clerkships so that no matter what amount of time you have to study for it, it would simply be a review. I mainly did Uworld questions and watched Kaplan videos during the clerkships and then when I was within that 3 weeks period (prior to the test date) I only did Uworld questions.

Dr. Lum: How about step 3? Can you give us any advice on how to prepare for that?
Dr. Adepoju: I took Step3 June 2018. I did Uworld questions.

Dr. Lum:  Did you need a step 3 score to match into residency?
Dr. Adepoju: No.

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

Dr. Lum: Can you give any advice to anyone who fails any of the steps?
Dr. Adepoju: I had to take MCAT more than once. So I can relate to the feeling. I think the biggest thing is assessing what went wrong during your first study time and sometimes not being afraid to totally change things up. I also found it necessary to wisely ask other people for what their techniques are; and take everything with a grain of salt, because not everything that works for someone else will necessarily work for you. So I believe it is important to know yourself and how you learn effectively and try to implement the techniques that are most helpful for you.

Dr. Lum: Did you have a gap year? Or are you a non-traditional student? What did you do during that time? What do you recommend to do if a person has a gap year?
Dr. Adepoju: I took a gap year both in between college and medical school and between medical school and residency.

I took a gap year between college and medical school because my medical school application and MCAT score were not the greatest. So I decided to do a post-baccalaureate program at Drexel University College of Medicine. For undergraduates looking to apply to medical school who don’t yet have a reasonable application then I would definitely recommend a post-bac program or a Masters degree program that would help them strengthen their application.

My gap year between medical school and residency was because I did not initially match into ophthalmology on my first try. However, I was determined that this was what I wanted to do and I wanted to give it another try during the subsequent match cycle. So I decided to pursue research fellowships. I initially secured one at Case Western Reserve University in Ohio, I did that for 3 months however I realized it was not giving me the clinical exposure that I felt I needed to help make me a stronger Ophthalmology resident. So I switched gears and got into another research program at Wills Eye Hospital in Philadelphia. This was more my speed and I also had the opportunity to publish papers while I was there.

Dr. Lum: How do you recommend IMG’s go about securing interviews?
Dr. Adepoju: I strongly recommend trying to do away rotations at institutions where you desire to match for residency. As an IMG it is more difficult and you are met with more resistance. However, you have to be persistent. I would dedicate entire afternoons sometimes to calling programs directly to secure a rotation there. My reasoning for doing that was I felt that if they could get a chance to see my work and I could build rapport with the program directors or attendings then I would no longer just be another name on the applicant list but rather become the human being that they would want in their program.

Dr. Lum:  What are your best tips for matching into residency?
Dr. Adepoju: Be Persistent! It’s not an easy process for an IMG especially in the more competitive specialties but realize that God has given you the grace to do what you do. And sometimes you have to knock on a few more doors to get what you want but it is honestly worth it in the end. Your timeline is not always other’. I had to take a gap year twice. This was obviously not the most ideal situation. However, my dreams were worth the extra couple of years. So work hard at what you want and if it takes longer that is perfectly fine.

Dr. Lum: In your observation why are some IMG’s struggling to get into residency? And what can they do about that?
Dr. Adepoju: There is a stigma associated with being an IMG. People automatically look at our country or school of origin and just disregard us. It’s not fair but it’s fine. That just gives us more of an opportunity to prove them wrong. We do that by working harder, putting in extra hours especially as a medical student during rotations or during observerships. I truly believe that when people see how amazing we are they give us a chance. It doesn’t ALWAYS work out like that but by God’s grace, it does when it needs to for our sake.

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. Adepoju: I did all of 3rd and 4th-year clinical rotations at US hospitals. I believe it was helpful for me because I made it a point of duty while I was on any rotation to contact their Ophthalmology department and ask to shadow whenever I had free hours or if I could have a meeting with the PD to introduce myself and ask for any advice etc. This was actually how I met one of my mentors who was then very instrumental during my match process both times.

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 or where you matched?
Dr. Adepoju: Ophthalmology is a heavily research-based field and initially not having that exposure was detrimental to my first ophthalmology application. Participating in research before applying the second time around I believe was very crucial to my success in matching the second time around.

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?
Dr. Adepoju: I would definitely tell myself that “patience is a virtue”. I was so consumed with keeping up with this “timeline” that I had set for myself that I was almost about to miss out on my dreams due to being hasty. But now I see that every roadblock and hurdle that I had to face along my journey was definitely worth it because I feel like I am finally doing what I love and essentially living my dream. It took longer than I wanted to but I am grateful because everything happened at God’s perfect timing and it worked out perfectly well and for my good in the end.

Dr. Lum: Can an IMG connect with you? If so, how?
Dr. Adepoju: Yes, absolutely!

Instagram/IG: omotomi_lade

Dr. Lum:  What mantra do you live by?
Dr. Adepoju: I am what I am by the grace of God, and it is by His grace that I will reach every goal that I have for myself.

Tell me what you think.