Canadians Studying Medicine Abroad: An International Medical Graduate’s (IMG) Perspective

Written by an IMG Resident consultant at the University of Toronto:

According to the CaRMs Report in 2010, there were at least 1500 Canadians studying medicine abroad, and I was one of them. The decision to study medicine outside of Canada should not be taken lightly because Medicine in general is a long path without the added stress of being far away from home. 

If you’re thinking about studying Medicine outside of Canada I think its important to consider the following issues. 

  1. Cost – the average annual tuition ranges from $12,250 (CAD) in Poland to $66,369 (CAD) in Australia. The median debt after graduating medical school is almost double for Canadians who chose to study abroad in comparison to Canadian medical graduates. Although the financial cost may be higher, you should consider what is the emotional and personal cost of not pursuing medicine altogether. 
  1. Specialty – The top two career choices of Canadians Studying Abroad continue to be Family Medicine and Internal Medicine. There are limited residency spots for IMGs in general, and it may actually be impossible to pursue training in certain fields. For example, in the year I applied to Residency, there were no plastic surgery residency programs an international graduate could apply to. If you have a passion for a certain field, its worth looking into what residency programs may be available to you after graduation. 
  1. Returning to Canada – it is challenging to obtain a residency position in Canada as an international graduate. In a 2015 CaRMs survey, 90% of Canadians studying abroad hoped to return to Canada to practise. The vast majority of my graduating class were able to obtain residency positions in the US, however there may also be new challenges with obtaining Visas to practise in the US as immigration laws have recently changed. If you do return to Canada for residency, there is also an associated Return of Service agreement to practise in a “Rural” community for up to 5 years after the completion of residency. 
  1. A different kind of education – I was fortunate to complete my clerkship years of medical school in excellent teaching hospitals in the US. I did, however, find that the first two years of medical school on the island particularly challenging. There was a significant amount of self-teaching, and the classroom lectures were often lacking. It was also stressful to have frequent exams. There is added pressure to do extremely well on licensing exams like the USMLEs to be able to compete with those in Canadian and American medical schools. All in all, it is a very different experience to study medicine abroad. There is definitely an increased sense of pressure, not only because of an increased financial burden but also because there are higher standards for entry into residency training programs for those who studied abroad. 

Although there are significant challenges to face as a Canadian studying medicine abroad, it is possible to obtain a great education and training and go on to have a successful career in Medicine. Despite the challenges, I am grateful that I had an opportunity to pursue my dream of becoming an ObGyn. 

Looking for more information regarding attending medical school internationally? Check out these blogs:
Matching to the US as an IMG
Should I go to Australia or the UK after Highschool?
Canadian pursuing medical training in Australia
Which UK medical school do you want to apply to?
Caribbean Medical School Q&A – Part 1
Caribbean Medical School Q&A – Part 2