Japanese International Medical Graduates and entrance into US clinical training: Challenges and methods to overcome them

Brian S. Heist, Haruka Matsubara Torok

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Introduction: Entering US clinical training requires completing requirements and navigating an application process differing from the Japanese system. Additionally, increases to the number of US medical school graduates have increased competition for US residency positions. We examined profiles of Japanese International Medical Graduates (IMGs) who completed US clinical training, the timelines to securing US clinical positions, and the greatest challenges during this process and methods to overcome them. Methods: Individual semistructured interviews were conducted with 35 purposively sampled Japanese IMGs. We performed exploratory thematic analysis using iterative data collection and constant comparison. Results: Twenty percent of participants lived in a native English-speaking country during childhood. The United States Medical Licensing Examinations were completed at ages 25-40 years. Challenges were categorized as: (1) English communication, (2) understanding the application process, (3) motivation to persevere through the process, (4) time management to complete Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates requirements, (5) receiving letters of recommendation and overcoming competition for US residency positions, (6) financial cost of the process. Pragmatic generally self-dependent methods helped overcome challenges 1-4 and 6. Participants detailed personal or, more commonly, institutional connections to US training programs required to overcome challenge 5. Conclusions: Japanese IMGs pursue US clinical training from diverse backgrounds commonly without the advantage of prior English fluency. Amidst increased competition internationally to enter US residency coupled with cultural and linguistic differences making this challenge often greater for Japanese IMGs, the competition to participate in institutionalized connections to US training programs is anticipated to increase.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)102-108
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of General and Family Medicine
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We would like to express our gratitude for the time and thoughtful comments from all participants, and funding received from the Shadyside Foundation, Thomas H. Nimick Jr Competitive Research Fund.


  • medical education
  • medical migration
  • postgraduate medical education
  • qualitative research

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article

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