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IMG and Research Information for the Residency Match
To Research or Not to Research, That is the Question
Depending on your interest in research and the field you are applying to, research may or may not benefit you in your application to compete in the NRMP Match. Many international graduates feel that this is a necessary part of their application, but really may not play a huge role in the application.
If you are applying to one of the less competitive residencies (in terms of IMG acceptance), such as internal medicine, pediatrics, family medicine, or psychiatry then you can probably skip research unless you are set at attending a top-tier program well known for it’s research (and even then it’s not required.) Many primary care programs will only take about 60 seconds to briefly review the title of your research project which you slaved over for 3 years. Definitely do not feel pressured into this area if you’re not research oriented. You’d be much better served looking for clinical rotations or studying English or your USMLEs during this time. If you're aiming toward matching at a smaller community hospital residency program, it's quite unlikely that research (even published) will make a significant impact on your chances of matching successfully.
What Kind of Research?
If you do decide to complete research, be sure to try to do it in an area which you have a genuine interest in. You don’t want to be stuck on a project you hate for a year or more. Also, you may want to perform your research at a hospital or academic university instead of a center that is geared toward postgraduate research which has no strong ties to clinical faculty. You want to be interacting with MDs and clinical faculty during your research time, not just with PhDs and basic science faculty. If you are at a hospital in a clinical department, you’ll have the opportunity to attend Grand Rounds, lectures, and possibly even hospital rounds.
Be sure to define a project where you will have some publishable results after you have put in your time. This is the benchmark for research success (at least for applications) and you’ll have something to show for your time.
In addition, you’ll likely be able to coax a letter of recommendation from your principal investigator. Ideally this person is also a ranking member of the clinical faculty as well and will write about more than simply your research project (your abilities, skills, personality, and clinical skills if possible.)