November 19, 2013

I get asked the “should I do research” and “where can I do research” question often. From my look at the NRMP data about half of those who match have research which means half do not.

If you are going to do two years of research and delay your application and increase the distance from your year of graduation you better produce something like this. High quality research is difficult and takes a lot of time to produce. You need to join a productive group and bring something to the table. Few IMG applicants who do any research time without previous training (MPH, MSc, PhD) have much to show for it. Performing research to get into residency is not worth the effort. Pursuing research because your passion to become an academic is a laudable act in my opinion.

If you think about it most successful IMG applicants will match in community programs (there are just more spots) and in general those programs value your clinical acumen but appreciate research less than a program at an Academic Medical Center with large research budgets. So in most cases the value for your time spent is likely not in your favor. That being said if research is your life (like mine) then by all means do as much as possible.

Now the question of where. It is hard to get a research position as research funding is harder to come by. Fewer dollars mean fewer research positions. Institutions are making volunteer research positions a thing of the past.

The most important thing to realize is that if your step 1 scores are low (<210) or less than average (<220), no amount of research will cause a program to ignore your low scores. A really good IMG application needs no research. A really good IMG application with exceptional research in the form of high quality publications is decidedly unusual and will be of interest to the best internal medicine programs. Unless you are in an MPH or MSc program at a top university or a top lab you are unlikely to get the research you need to have exceptional research.

The views expressed on this post are those of Kenneth Christopher, MD and do not necessarily reflect the views of his employer Partners HealthCare, his hospital, department or division.

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