The IMG Roadmap Series #7: Dr. Bilen (CARDIOLOGY)

img_6463Dr. Bilen and I hosted an Instagram LIVE video months ago and over 500 people tuned in ! The session was packed with basic life advice on being a woman in medicine, a mother training in a competitive specialty (Cardiology) and a physician wife to a Medical Oncologist. During that session Dr. Bilen shared (among other things) that she sent over 300 emails in search of a clinical observership experience to boost her application! Now if that doesn’t describe a driven person… then I don’t know who fits the definition. Major hustler move! Doctors dont realize our profession though noble requires the same amount of networking like all others do! As you will discover she is brilliant and performed well on tests but admitted to choosing to stay close to her family for training; a choice that potentially limited her odds of matching. Though I must admit it would be a difficult one for me to make: I find that honorable as our most valuable possession is indeed love and family.

In a short few weeks she will be an Assistant Professor of Cardiology at Emory University in Atlanta, GA where she is completing her fellowship!

I am glad that I can bring a focused version of my Q&A with her in this session. Let us get right into it.


Dr. Lum:  Welcome Dr. Bilen. Please tell us about yourself.
Dr. Bilen: I grew up in Turkey and came to the USA in 2006. I received an international student scholarship from Harvard Medical School and I loved my rotations and decided to continue my career here. I later pursued an Internal Medicine residency at Baylor College of Medicine and cardiology fellowship training at Emory School of Medicine and where I will continue my career as an Assistant Professor of Cardiology.

Dr. Lum: When did you take USMLE step 1?
Dr. Bilen:  In 2008 with a Step 1 score of 248.

Dr. Lum: Impressive! What studying technique worked best for you? Or what do you recommend as the ideal study schedule for a great score?
Dr. Bilen: I am very visual and algorithmic. I did practice questions multiple times.

Dr. Lum: Can you walk us through how you prepared for the test? Include books used, videos, courses, etc.
Dr. Bilen: I read all Kaplan books once and did question banks 2-3 times for each test.

Dr. Lum: When did you take USMLE step 2?
Dr. Bilen: The year 2009 with a score of 263.

Dr. Lum: You knocked off the charts! 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. Bilen: For step 2, I only did USMLEWORLD  questions 3 times.

Dr. Lum: When did you take step 3? Can you give us any advice on how to prepare for step 3? What study technique do you attribute to your success on step 3
Dr. Bilen: Right before starting residency. I think it was easiest of all. I went over cases 2-3 times.

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

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

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. Bilen: I did research for 3 years as I didn’t match during those three years.

Dr. Lum: How do you recommend IMG’s go about securing interviews?
Dr. Bilen: Preparing a good CV is key. Contact people who know you and you have worked with you.

Dr. Lum: What are your best tips for matching into residency?
Dr. Bilen: Be genuine and be yourself. I had a strong application, but being a minority woman during interviews was hard. But I was totally myself; genuine. People you interview with are emotionally intelligent. Many of such people trust their gut feeling. If they like you, they will want to take you. So be sincere. Don’t be over or underconfident. Show maturity that you will blend in well with the program and you are a good fit. Programs are not looking for genius people, they are looking for good fits.

Dr. Lum: In your observation why are some IMG’s struggling to get into residency? And what can they do about that?
Dr. Ozlem: There are cultural differences and there is nothing wrong about it. But everyone who is practicing medicine in the USA has to be familiar with and obey the medical rules and medical culture. Respect, kindness, showing up on time, hard work and honesty are key.

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. Bilen: Yes, I rotated several times and this was extremely helpful. Eventually, programs want to take people who are familiar and who can fit in.

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. Bilen: I did and beyond learning science, I learned {about}the system. I got familiar with the culture. I made friends. I felt comfortable interacting with people.

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 is your mantra for your success thus far?
Dr. Bilen: Be sincere, work hard and be honest so everyone can depend on you. Once people trust you, they won’t let you go.

Dr. Lum: Can an IMG connect with you? If so, how?
Dr. Bilen: {Yes on Instagram} as @cardiologistmomm

Dr. Lum: Did you need a visa (F1, H1B, J1 or B1/B2) for any parts of your training?
Dr. Bilen: none, I had a green card.

Dr. Lum: Thank you so much for sharing. One last thing: what mantra do you live by?
Dr. Bilen: Be yourself, everyone else is taken.




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