In recent months, PAMS in Chicago has been faced with an increased number of inquiries and requests for help in finding residency positions and student clerkships. Though it is not a new issue since most of our members are physicians of Polish origin and international medical graduates (IMGs). IMGs have always had more difficult access to residency positions than graduates of American medical schools, particularly in surgical specialties that are very competitive even for the best American graduates.

In recent years, this situation has been further impacted by many new factors. We monitor these changes and aim to acquire and disseminate accurate and current information about these trends. We are committed to helping our students as much as we can. Among us are very dedicated doctors who understand “the system” and work as faculty members at Chicago universities, training students and residents, However, their experience or influence is not enough.

In recent years, residency education in the US has been relatively stagnant, but medical school enrollment has not. Many medical schools have expanded and additional schools have opened. The number of American graduates will grow from approximately 18,000 in 2000 to almost 28,000 by 2020. But this growth will not result in increased numbers of practicing physicians. It simply displaces international graduates. In only four years, there will be more American medical graduates then residency positions, a circumstance that has never existed before. In 1997 the US Congress capped Medicare funding for added residency positions. Moreover, if Congress also decreases funding for existing residency education, the number of residency positions will likely decrease again.

While the interest of young Polish doctors in immigrating to the US is declining because of opportunities within the European Union, we have been observing an increasing number of American students of Polish origin seeking medical education in Poland and wishing to return to the US. Many medical schools in Poland which have opened English divisions with 4 and 6 year programs actively recruit US and Canadian students. For the most part, their intention is to return to the US later and apply for residency programs through the Main Residency Match. While all medical schools in Poland are accredited in the USA and provide excellent education, their graduates (even American citizens) are considered IMGs; and in this competitive environment they have a disadvantage. They not only compete with American graduates but also with other IMG’s who are often extremely well prepared to pass the required USMLE exams. Therefore the high USMLE score (>240) is of extreme importance for those seriously considering applying for the American residency position.

Our newly elected Board of PAMS has worked hard for the last 4 months to address these issues. These are the points we were able to address up to this date:

1. We contacted ECFMG and NRMP and obtained the most recent information pertinent to IMG Match in 2013

● Charting outcomes of the Match “International Medical Graduates” was published for the first time in Jan 2014 and provides information about criteria, requirements and statistics for all specialties: http://www.ecfmg.org/resources/NRMP-ECFMG-Charting-Outcomes-in-the-Match-International-Medical-Graduates-2014.pdf

● “National-Resident-Matching Program 2014 results” http://www.nrmp.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/National-Resident-Matching-Program-NRMP-Results-and-Data-SMS-2014-Final.pdf

2. We contacted directly several medical schools in Poland to provide them with realistic information and urged them to pay more attention to Polish-American medical students planning to return to the USA. Specifically we have met with Rectors from Poznan Medical University, Deans from Warsaw Medical University and from Medical University in Wroctaw. Some of the schools have already implemented measures such as introducing Kaplan preparatory courses to help students achieve better scores on USMLE.

3. We met with officials at the Ministry of Health in Warsaw to alert them to this problem.

4. We explored opportunities to obtain clerkships and observerships in American medical schools in Chicago for students studying in Poland. This is an extremely difficult and complex process that requires overcoming many legal obstacles, malpractice insurance and patient privacy issues, as well as availability and willingness of faculty members to participate in this process. Since official agreements between Polish and American medical schools do not exist, we are using our personal connections with universities in Chicago to facilitate this process. We are in contact with our academic colleagues at the University of Chicago, University of Illinois and Loyola University, and thanks to their understanding and good will, we are making progress in securing academic opportunities for medical students from Poland.

5. We are connecting with recent Polish IMGs who were successful in obtaining residency positions in the US and asking them to share any useful information that might be beneficial for students and future graduates. We appeal to any students or residents to contact us and share their experiences.

I would like to thank PAMS Board members, particularly Dr. Ewa Radwanska, Dr. Ewelina Worwag and Dr. Adam Cios for their commitment to work on these issues.

Kornelia Krol, M.D.
President, Polish-American Medical Society in Chicago