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A letter from 3rd. year Medical student

April 28, 2008

As a life-long resident of Massachusetts, and a future physician hoping to practice in the state, I am happy to see that our state is not only continuing to support health insurance for every resident, but also looking to improve upon the anticipated shortage of doctors by involving the University of Massachusetts School of Medicine.

There is also the possibility of making it easier for foreign-trained doctors to obtain their visa in order to practice here.

I am currently a third-year medical student studying in Guadalajara, Mexico. Under our program here, we are required to study for four years in Mexico and return to complete a fifth year of clinical rotation through the Fifth Pathway Program, affiliated with various medical schools in New York, in order to obtain our M.D. This route to licensure has been functioning for over 35 years and churning out some of the most skilled doctors in the country, with more than 13,000 practicing graduates of the program.

Recently, the American Medical Association has decided to eliminate the Fifth Pathway program as a means to obtain licensure through our school. What does this mean? Essentially it is cutting off the path for many U.S. citizens to realize their dream of becoming a physician and returning to their country to practice. It also means fewer doctors in the future, which will not only affect the so-called baby boomer population, but everyone across the nation. We are left with the unappealing options of staying in Mexico for six years and passing a mountain of exams in order to return, or transferring to another foreign school.My question is this: why doesn’t the state (and the nation) look at what’s happening to their own U.S. citizens that are studying medicine abroad and make it easier for them to transfer to a U.S. school of medicine, such as UMass? I must make it very clear that less than a month ago UMass was adamant about not accepting foreign-trained transfer students into their school of medicine. Not even if they are residents of Massachusetts and wish to practice here. Not even if they’ve already passed their USMLE (United States Medical Licensing Exam) Step 1 and have excelled in medical school. No exceptions.

Perhaps the state should stop looking overseas at foreigners and start bringing their own residents home to study and practice.


The writer is a student at the Universidad de Guadalajara School of Medicine, class of 2009.


3 Comments leave one →
  1. April 28, 2008 3:27 pm

    I haven’t understood all the isues but from another point of view: why did students trained in Mexico have a dedicated channel (or program as you wish to call it) and be in this way advantaged over the other international students?

  2. April 28, 2008 5:24 pm

    I didn’t understand the problem very well too.
    U.S. docs always complaint that IMGs get into residencies. The truth is that very few of the top IMGs get good residencies at University hospitals. Most of the IMGs end up in community hospitals just to fill up the needs for physicians.

  3. Dr_neuro permalink
    January 6, 2009 1:34 pm

    I’m a current 5th pathway MS. I see the obstacles in the way for those international US graduates whom chose to do Medicine in Mexico and complete the fifth pathway. It’s NOT easy. One reason that I choose the 5th pathway is that I thought it would make me an overall better physician and applicant for residency. Did it? I think so but that is relative. I cannot compare myself to a US graduate or another IMG. We all have our strength and weakness. I know the 5th pathway has produced quality physician and should be improved not abolished.

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