A Trainee-Led Way to Help International Medical Graduates Meet the Challenges of a U.S. Residency : Academic Medicine

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Letters to the Editor

A Trainee-Led Way to Help International Medical Graduates Meet the Challenges of a U.S. Residency

Odebunmi, Tolulope MD, MPH; Jennifer, Mats Steffi MD; Erayil, Serin Edwin MD; Wongjarupong, Nicha MD

Author Information
doi: 10.1097/ACM.0000000000003797
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To the Editor:

Transitions during training are stressful for all physicians. This is especially the case for international medical graduates (IMGs) making the transition to a U.S. residency. In addition to the steep learning curve at the outset of residency, these physicians often face being away from their families, having visa-related complications, and experiencing culture shock and racial disparities. The University of Minnesota IMG support group was started in 2019 to build a community for these physicians to connect with others going through similar challenges so they can learn from each other and thrive despite the above stressors.

The group was created and executed by residents and fellows across disciplines. As a first step, the group partnered with the graduate medical education (GME) office. That office helped create a list of all the IMGs at the medical school’s residencies and sent an initial email requesting volunteers for a core leadership group. Eleven trainees responded. This core team meets regularly online to discuss initiatives that could be undertaken by the group, and began by conducting informal social gatherings and potlucks. IMG participants reported that these events helped them build connections and better navigate practical aspects of living in the United States. In particular, the events improved their sense of well-being and helped them better cope with stress and adapt more easily to the local culture.

In the setting of the COVID-19 pandemic, virtual meetings replaced in-person events. Recently, the group conducted a virtual social event to welcome the incoming IMG trainees to the medical school and university. This event included short talks by IMG panelists on topics they wished they had known about at the beginning of residency, such as culture shock, adapting and thriving in residency, and imposter syndrome. Feedback from new residents indicated that this event helped their anxiety about starting their residencies.

Going forward, we hope that this social club of IMGs will grow into a mentoring network among the residencies at the University of Minnesota. Short-term goals are to continue to host social events and to work with the GME office in updating an intern survival handbook for IMGs. The long-term goal is to share the social group model on a national platform with the hope that it is replicated in other residency programs. The GME office continues to support this endeavor by sponsoring some of the events and advertising all the group’s events in the monthly resident–fellow newsletter.

Building learner communities from shared experiences has the potential to ease the stressors of medical training. Especially with the challenges our country is facing with the pandemic, it is crucial to enact measures to ensure the well-being of our residents, who are at the front lines of care. These measures are particularly important for IMGs, who are an integral part of the U.S. health care workforce. Residency programs should do all they can to enable these physicians to succeed and achieve their highest potential.


The authors would like to acknowledge the University of Minnesota Graduate Medical Education Office and Kaz Nelson, MD, associate designated institutional officer, for their continued support.

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