(Studying abroad holds great promise for opportunities, experiences and more. But the process to secure admissions comes with questions. What are the scholarship opportunities for international students? What are colleges looking for? What makes an application stand out? Is going abroad an opportunity for a select few? Every Friday, The Indian Express invites an expert to offer tips, advice and answers to such frequently asked questions in the ‘Study Abroad’ column)
In the recent few months, there has been a lot of discussion around Indian students going abroad for medical education. More than 20,000 Indian students enrolled in Ukrainian medical universities were forced to return due to the ongoing war. Hundreds of Indian students also returned from China during the pandemic and both sets of students are still facing an uncertain future.
These situations have highlighted the shortage of medical seats in India and the need for Indian students to seek admission abroad. While most consider foreign education an expensive affair, what many students don’t know is that they can actually study at a nominal cost, or even free, in many courses. In some cases like a postgraduate medical course in the US, they can earn between $5000 to $10000, per month, as a stipend.
Medical admission scenario in India versus US
There are around 42,182 PG medical seats in India, this includes MD (Doctor of Medicine) and MS (Master of Surgery) courses. This year, more than 1.6 lakh students appeared for NEET PG and 89,000 of them cleared the examination, and will now compete for 42,182 seats. This statistic shows that every year approximately 1.20 lakh students who pass NEET PG cannot go for their desired specialisations and cannot proceed to a further career in India.
you consider the recent data from the US National Residency Match Program (NRMP), which is the official entity responsible for matching the desired specialty for international medical graduates, there are more than 35,000 positions available for international students for PG courses. Aspirants from India also compete for these positions. Each year, approximately 8000 students appear for the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) aspiring for a medical residency in the US and 50 per cent of them qualify. If more students are aware of the process and how it works, this number can rise.
Why is US residency beneficial for students?
Currently, Foreign Medical Graduates (FMG) Examination is a licensing test for medical students to practice in India. FMGs from Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States have been recognised as medical practitioners in that country and are exempted from this exam.
As far as finances go in the US, rather than charging students a high fee for postgraduate medical education, the courses are free of cost. Once students are accepted into the residency programme, also known as the Postgraduate Medical Education programme in India, they receive a stipend of $5000 to $10,000 per month, which is offered by all US universities.
On the other hand, a PG student in a private or deemed university ends up paying between Rs 1.5 to 2.5 crore for postgraduate education in India. Apart from that, the number of specialisation seats in India is also very limited, with hardly one seat or branch or specialisation available. Hence, students must look for another source where they can get admission to their desired specialisation for postgraduate study.
The residency programme in the US is a free programme because they need high-quality doctors, and most hospitals are well-equipped with all of state-of-the-art facilities and medical equipment for diagnostic purposes.
There are 35,000 seats available in 31 disciples in the US for which foreign medical graduates from all countries can apply through a common port. However, it is a very complex algorithm to get the right match and despite the high number of applicants, around 2000 seats go vacant. That’s because students are often unaware of how to take advantage of the process.
What should a PG aspirant know?
The USMLE, though required for residency admission in the US, is not the only factor. Experts in the medical education industry have said recent data shows that admissions in the past were largely given on USMLE score whereas, in the recent few years, its weightage has come down considerably in the admission process. A student passing the test may not always be the best fit.
Now, profiling is playing a huge part in admissions. What aspirants can do to make their candidature stronger is concentrate on building a strong profile. For eg, most US universities are research-intensive and hence it is suggested that students undertake research projects under the guidance of senior professors. Original research work done by students published in peer-reviewed journals with a proper scopes index is another plus point.
Similarly, having an understanding of the final admission rounds (Match Day and SOAP) is helpful. Since there are several specialties, foreign medical graduates are asked to indicate their preferences as per a ranking list for the specialisation they are interested in. The NRMP uses a mathematical algorithm to match the programme with the applicant according to their most ranked preferred choices. An understanding of and studying the working of this system are imperative to maximise the chance of landing a PG seat.
Important dates for applying to the 2023 main residency
The following are the dates specified on the website of NRMP:
* September 15: Registration is open till January 31, 2023
* January 31: Standard registration deadlines for Match Day and SOAP process
* February 1: Ranking opens
* March 1: Rank order list certification deadlines
Courtesy : The Indian Express