发信人: kgmom (kgmom), 信区: MedicalCareer
标 题: My road to ophthalmology residency in the US
发信站: BBS 未名空间站 (Wed Jan 23 05:33:55 2008)
My road to ophthalmology residency in the US
Don’t know where to start.
The first time I heard of USMLE was back to my first year in BMU nearly 20
yrs ago. An old professor, Dr. Liu gave us medical students a talk about
USMLE and being a doctor in the US. It was like a fairy tale for me at that
time, there was only one exam spot in China is Hongkong at that time, and
considering I will have to pay the penalty for not serving after graduation,
I thought that was just something beyond my reach.
After working as an ophthalmologist for 6 years in China, I just don’t feel
the environment is right, the system, the training, the patient-doctor
relationship, so came to the US 6 years ago. I first landed in an Immunology
research lab. As all Chinese postdocs, I worked very hard and soon became
productive, but I also realized being a non-native-speaker, and without
systematic research training, I can hardly make a living as an independent
The longest process in my USMLE preparation is making up my mind. Since I
did not hear many successful stories before, especially for ophthalmology
residency, even AMGs are saying “if your parents did not submit your
application for your ophthalmology residency when you were in diaper, you
are too late”. Recent years, we are hearing and seeing more and more
inspiring cases of our CMGs get into clinical field. I finally made up my
mind 2 years ago when I came back to ophthalmology field.
Background: graduates 12 years ago, PhD in China (actually it’s in clinical
ophthalmology with only one year of lab work, but the certificate is Ph.D),
6 yrs ophthalmology in China, 6 yrs research in US, so-so papers 10+, green
USMLE: 245 (Oct. 2006)/255(June 2007)/cs pass (April 2007)/step 3 not taken
Matching stat: applied 90+/- ophthal programs, received 10 IVs (7 univ. and
3 community pgs) and went on all, matched in a university program, in the
middle of my list. Applied 40 prelim-IM in local, 5 IVs all community
hospitals, went to 4, got two pre-match offers, and highly possible from the
other 2 as well if further pursued, signed one in mid Dec.
Retrospectively, what helped me got good number of IVs?
1. ophthalmology experience in china: experience in home country does count,
almost all the cases of CMGs got into ophthalmology programs in US were
ophthalmologist in china.
2. usmle scores: 245/255: I would say, 99/99 maybe a pre-requisite for
getting interviews, if you don’t have a connection when applying hot
3. US clinical ophthalmology experience: As a junior faculty without my own
funding yet, part of my salary came from the department, and when they need
hands in clinic, I have the skill and desire, it just worked out perfectly.
4. Research and good numbers of paper, even though most are not in
ophthalmology: good tracking record in your career speaks highly for your
What else factors will help in getting IVs, which I wish I had:
1. US Ph.D, is much bigger than Chinese Ph.D
2. Research in big-cow school
3. Connections: but connections get you IVs, not the match
4. Big-wig LORs
What helped me finally matched?
The difficulty in matching into hot specialties is you are competing with
strong AMGs, even you are invited for interviews, to convince the program to
rank you high or even rank you is still a tough work. I do not have any
connections in the program I matched. While interviewed at the program I
matched, I think I performed extremely well, English was super fluent,
personal interaction was good. I can feel that the interviewers resonant
with my response. After the interview, I knew they like me the most among
all the programs.
1. improve spoken English
2. do extensive home work about the program, faculty
3. practice interview skill, be your self and successfully sell yourself,
show sincere interest in the specialty and the program
4. Then, you do need some luck, i.e, the AMGs that above you on the
programs rank list would not rank the program high. When I interviewed at a
program, one of the interviewer, a young faculty said to me: “I can tell
you your credential is way above most of the other candidates today, but…”
he paused, “Ranking is another story?” I added, I know I should not, but
I just can’t help. Then he said, “ while you have to admit being a FMG is
a big hit for you”
My experience: what I am happy with myself in the whole process:
I believe all CMGs can make it to your desired residency, as long as you
work hard enough.
1. Anything that you have a control in the whole process, try to make your
--I knew I have to score 99/99 to have a slim chance in Ophtha, so I aimed
that and made it.
--Polish my English and interview skill over and over with my partners and
--Small details in IVs: Nicely groom and dress, have CV printed on resume
paper, presented to each interviewers, thank-you email afterwords…
2. Be tough, physically and mentally.
--With a full time job and two young kids, I study both hard and efficiently.
-- Tell myself you only need one to match, and fully prepared before the 1st
IV. I had no major flaws in the first two IVs in early Nov. Actually, I
only had 4 ophtha IVs before mid Nov., very frustrating at that time.
--I had 10 IV (ophth and pre-lim) appointments fall in between 11/30 and 12/
19, and the ophth IVs are all over the country. I did not even think about
cancel any of them. And except the two bottom ophtha community programs (
reason see Regrets section), I think I interviewed well anywhere, even in my
No.1 choice big cow program, no regrets at all.
3. Great support from family:
--Thanks for my husband, who is very supportive, shouldered a lot of family
--My parents came to help us twice for several months each time before the
little one can go to daycare. But actually, although their coming were very
good for my kids, I ended up less study time due to have to think about how
to make sure they are happy here, so don’t recommend to have parents here
when you prepare USMLE.
--And my two daughters, they are all very good girls, except don’t want to
sleep until 10 or 11pm.
My regrets and lessons:
1. Score as high as you can. I wish I had scored higher in step 1, since
according to SDN data, to get into top ophtha programs, even AMG need >235.
While people are getting higher and higher scores, you have to follow the
2. Finish exams earlier to have ample time in preparing application: SF
match starts to receive application in June 1st, and close at Sep. 1st.
Deadline of programs ranging from mid Aug to mid Nov. I gave my ck on June
28th and ECFMG certified in end of July, finally submitted application in
mid August, missed deadline of some programs.
3. Apply as many programs as you can, I’m talking about the hot small
specialties: Don’t care about geography, don’t try to save money at this
point. And, don’t be afraid to apply big-cow programs if you do have
something glare. Sometimes it is the big-cow program that has the gut to
take a good IMG. I was told by several professors in my department that some
not-so good programs, with only 2 spots per year, do not want to take IMG,
because they are afraid of that they will become less attractive in good
AMGs if they take IMGs. And ophthalmology programs are so competitive that
they can always grab AMGs, although maybe not very good ones. Ridiculous and
insulting? Yes, but it is the truth. And the fact is, my worst interview
experience were from the two community programs at the bottom of my rank
list. They do not really appreciate your value at all.
4. Did not have California letter, lost CA, which has a lot of ophtha
5. Lost programs in another two states: Louisiana and MN. Misled by web
information and didn’t check by phone, I thought they require step 3 score
while apply, actually they mean when you come to the program, which is PGY-2.
6. Try to get good LOR from big-wig: As soon as you decide your specialty
, make your effort to get access to big-wigs in your area, that really
counts. My LORs are all from US physician, but no big-wig ophthalmologist.
The 2 ophthalmologists are not real big-wigs. The other one from postdoc
mentor is an ok big-wig in surgery, but not even known by the
ophthalmologists in the same school.
7. Have a back-up specialty: Although I didn’t, but I highly suggest you
have one if you have time to prepare the material. I did not have any
exposure to Patho, did not have any experience in IM what-so-ever. So even
if I apply other specialty, my CV is like yelling to the PD that “ I’m an
ophthalmologist looking for a back-up!”. A real back-up, you have to make
some credit for yourself on that.
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