When I first encountered the term “old IMG”, I wasn’t very sure what it exactly mean, even though intuitively, I knew it refers to someone like me. An IMG is an International Medical Graduate as opposed to an AMG or American Medical Graduate. I thought initially that old refers to the age of the IMG, but found out it actually refers to how long ago the IMG graduated.
Therefore, an old IMG is an IMG who graduated years ago. But the question remains, how many years ago should an IMG have graduated to be considered old? How did the term come about? And why does it matter if the IMG is old or not?
What is an Old IMG?
An Old IMG is anyone who has been 5 years out of medical school. Even if you are in your forties but you graduated from medical school less than 5 years ago, you are NOT considered an old IMG. So it has nothing to do with age, but more of year of graduation. And of course you attended a medical school outside the U.S.
How did the term “Old IMG” come about?
It took me sometime to find out why there was a cutoff of five years after graduating from medical school to be considered an old IMG. It turned out that a significant number of training hospitals in the US will not even consider interviewing IMGs who graduated more than 5 years from the year of the match.
For example if you are participating in the 2016 match, you should have graduated from medical school no earlier than 2011. Increasingly, more and more hospitals are imposing a limit of 3 years after medical school as part of the criteria for qualification for interview.
This has made it harder for Old IMGs to get interviews since fewer hospitals will consider their application. For IMGs, getting interviews is already harder than AMGs since a third of US training hospital will not even consider accepting IMGs. With half of the remaining hospitals who accept IMGs unwilling to accept old IMGs you could imagine how much harder it is for the old IMG to get interviews. And remember all those hospitals willing to accept old IMGs also accept both AMGs and fresh grad IMGs!!!
Since I was an old IMG 16 years out of medical school when I started prepping and 18 years out of medical school when I applied for an interview, it felt weird to get rejection email that went something like this:
“You have very high scores and we really like your cover letter. However, we are sorry to inform you that you do not qualify for an interview.”
I showed the email to a friend who commented, “so what is their qualification for an interview, a low score.” Hehe.
Anyway, there is a valid reason why they do this and I will discuss it in a future post on residency, interviews, etc. for the old IMG.
Why does being an “Old IMG” matter?
Being an old IMG means your pathway to a U.S. medical career will be significantly different from the usual candidates for medical residency.
First, you will have a harder time getting interviews, since there are significant number of hospitals that have a cutoff of 5 years from date of graduation.
Second, you will have problems acquiring license to practice in some states, since some states impose additional requirements depending on the number of years since you graduated from medical school.
Lastly, you will have problems prepping for the USMLE due to a variety of reasons and factors. You can read more details in the post, “Common Problems of the Old IMG”.
Even though old IMGs face significant problems compared to AMGs or other IMGs, they are not insurmountable. They just need to be aware of these problems and that they cannot follow the path these AMGs or other IMGs if they want to succeed in their medical careers.
I will discuss the first two problems in a future post. You may want to subscribe to our email list to get updates when new articles are posted.