The IMG Roadmap Series #9: Dr. Aramburu (Peds\Child Advocacy)

Social media has its perks.

It has allowed me to virtually “meet” several men and women whom I believe I share a lot in common with. Most of them are doctors whom I would’ve never otherwise known about if I did not have a small social media presence.

Today’s guest is a boss lady I met on Instagram. Maria Gabriela Aramburu, M.D is a vibrant successful community pediatrician & child advocate in the DC area. She hails from Panama, a country in Central America but happens to be a medical nomad like myself as she went to medical school in another country prior to moving to the States.

Before we jump in to glean some wisdom from her Q& A — I will be hosting my first FREE coaching Webinar on Wednesday, May 22nd at 8 pm. Topic: How IMG’s Should Prepare for the 2020 Residency Match. Click here to sign up.

Dr. Lum: Please tell us about yourself.
Dr. Aramburu: I am originally from Panama and I decided to go to medical school in Mexico. I did 4 years there in Mexico, and then 2 years of “internado” . I did one of those there [in Mexico] and one in Florida (at the University of Miami). I then proceeded to do 2 years of “servicio”. I decided to go to Mexico because the schedule was similar to the US and it was also well-ranked in the US. After the 2 years of “ servicio” I went back to practice in Panama as a General Physician. I then applied to the US for residency and matched at my top choice for Pediatrics. I after my residency did a 3-year fellowship in Community Pediatrics and Child Advocacy and I’ve been an attending for 5 years as an Assistant Professor at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital in Washington, DC.

Dr. Maria Aramburu
Dr. Maria Gabriela Aramburu

Dr. Lum: Very impressive portfolio Dr.Aramburu. When did you take USMLE step 1?
Dr. Aramburu: I took step 1 during my 2nd year of med school. We didn’t get training or any sort of dedicated study preparation for step 1 so I studied during the weekends or during my free time from Step 1 books. I also did a rotation in the US during my third year and used my summer time to do KAPLAN course for step 1. This was the best decision ever.

Dr. Lum: What studying technique worked best for you? Or what do you recommend as the ideal study schedule for a great score?
Dr. Aramburu: I missed a lot of family activities and weekend fun to immerse myself in USMLE books. I made studying fun by biking to libraries or studying outside. Finding a group or a partner really worked for me and doing the KAPLAN refresher course was life-changing. I advice everyone starting this process to invest your time early and you won’t regret it. If you are still enrolled in a foreign medical school, do step 1 before you graduate!

Dr. Lum: Can you walk us through how you prepared for the test? Include books used, videos, courses, etc.
Dr.Aramburu: Here is what worked for me:

  • During the period of one year, I did extra studying every weekend while in medical school.
  • Spent entire summer enrolled in KAPLAN for 6 weeks
  • I practiced complete immersion during that summer studying for USMLE step 1 and participated in an external rotation during this time
  • Group study
  • Kaplan books and question banks

Dr. Lum: When did you take USMLE step 2?
Dr. Aramburu: I took USMLE 2 after my “internado” {intern} year. Studied with KAPLAN videos DAILY for hours until completing all course content and then re-read Kaplan books twice. Pretty intense!

Dr. Lum: What studying techniques do you attribute to your success in step 2? What books or resources do you attribute to your success on CK or CS?

Dr. Aramburu: First AID was a great resource for CS. Can you tell I loved KAPLAN? I used that as well.

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? Did you require a step 3 score to match into residency?
Dr. Aramburu: I took step 3 after my first year of residency. I did a lot of {practice} questions and used the first aid book. I recommend everyone to consider taking step 3 before residency if time allows.

Dr. Lum:
Did you take either one of these tests more than once? If so, what factors caused the failed attempts?
Dr. Aramburu: I had to retake the CS because I was very nervous and that caused me to underperform. I was also going through personal stressors and these affected me. I recommend having a clear head and choose the “ right time” to pick a date for that test.

Dr. Lum: What advice would you give to someone who fails any of the steps?
Dr. Aramburu: Do it again as soon as possible. Information is fresh and you are ready. Identify {the} reasons {why you failed} and tackle them. Don’t moan and soak in your sorrow.

Dr. Lum: What do you recommend to do if a person has a gap year?
Dr. Aramburu: Always try to do research and observerships. Everything counts.

Dr. Lum: Did you have children during this process? Can you share on how you overcame the challenges of being a parent while pursuing this path? What are some lessons learned?
Dr. Aramburu: No kids during this process. It would make it harder but I had friends that did it. Will take more time but if you stay consistent you will come out standing on the other side.

Dr. Lum: How do you recommend IMG’s go about securing interviews?
Dr. Aramburu: Connect with graduates from hospitals you’re interested in interviewing at. Do observerships. Contact {these} people via email.

Dr. Lum: What are your best tips for anyone on matching into residency?
Dr. Aramburu: Make personal connections during interviews and follow up with those.

Dr. Lum: In your observation why are some IMG’s struggling to get into residency? And what can they do about that?
Dr. Aramburu: Programs here want people to have had contact with the system. They are “scared” of people coming into the unknown and having steep learning curves. Get in the system and get experience under your belt. Seek out programs that consider IMGs some programs don’t even look at IMG’s applications and its sad but the truth.

Dr. Lum: Did you participate in clinical rotations at any US hospital prior to match day? Was this helpful to your match process?
Dr. Aramburu: Yes, I found this to be very important. I did this during med school and afterward. It is critical. When given the opportunity to rotate, work hard and get yourself noticed. Meet with attendings and ask for feedback.

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. Aramburu: I did do 1 whole year in UM (University of Miami) and it helped just to have it on my CV. They actually did not offer me an interview, so it didn’t help {for that purpose}. If I was doing it again, I would have connected more with attendings to get letters right away {during my time there}.

Dr. Lum: What will you tell your younger self; looking back?
Dr. Aramburu: Stay positive. Stay focused. Work hard.

Dr. Lum: Can an IMG connect with you? If so, how?
Dr. Aramburu: @pediatricsmom on Instagram

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? What should everyone attempting this process know?
Dr. Aramburu: J-1 is terrible. If you want to stay in the country try not to get J1. If no other options exist such as H1B, then do it but make sure you know the process on how to get a waiver if needed.

Dr. Lum: What mantra do you live by?
Dr. Aramburu: The energy you put out into the universe is what you get back. Positivity and hard work win all battles. Don’t let anything get in your way.

Dr. Lum: Thank you Dr. Aramburu! Stay fighting guys! Don’t dare give up!

I will be hosting a FREE coaching Webinar on Wednesday, May 22nd at 8 pm. Topic: How IMG’s Should Prepare for the 2020 Residency Match. Click here to sign up

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