Getting A Research Post As An IMG
It isn’t as easy as it seems, so you have to be strategic
Getting a research post as an IMG isn’t as easy as it seems because physicians from other countries are not necessarily trained to be research assistants in the United States. They may not necessarily have the research skill set that is needed to make you a job candidate in a specific research program, particularly when competing with students in academic degrees from the US. Ultimately, this makes grad students in master’s and PhD programs in the US better job candidates, because they study the research regulatory processes along with their science courses.
Researchers may also not want to hire you if they sense that you may be “using” the job to try to get into a residency program. It takes time (and valuable funding) to train you to a level where you can work independently in the research program.If the lab director suspects that you are going to ask for time off to take the USMLE Step 2 CK exam, and six months later you are going to ask for a letter of reference for your ERAS file, and then you are going to start asking for even more time off to travel to interviews, and match at a residency program and then you are going to quit, they are not going to be eager to hire you. In addition, you are asking for clinical and observation experiences that are for your benefit and not related to the research program. From their immediate perspective, you may not be a very appealing job candidate - which is why you have to be strategic.
How to navigate the process of getting a Research post
Find mentors for this by networking who are willing to support your research needs. Sometimes researchers will add you to some of their research activities to give you opportunities to participate in abstracts and publications, but this is for your benefit, not the researcher’s.
Go to the website of a university department you are interested in. Look for the faculty researchers. Make a note of their email contact info and look up their recent publications. If their CV is not linked to their profile, go to PubMed or Medline and download their most recent papers. Read everything they have written in the past five years. Become an expert on their recent research work.
Now make a list of all of your research skills that are related to this researcher’s work. Construct a well-written email introducing yourself. Be clear about your needs, goals and timeline. Describe your skills, and how you believe you could make a meaningful contribution to the research program in exchange for clinical and observation opportunities.
While you are on the university’s website, look for the section about on-line and in-person research safety classes. Sign up for everything: research safety, chemical safety, hazardous materials, blood borne pathogens, radiation safety, HIPAA, plus whatever else may be relevant.
Research/clinical faculty receive emails like this every day. There are thousands of IMGs in the world waiting to get into residencies, many of whom have prearranged their clinical/observation/research mentors before they come to the US, so you need to be aggressive and thorough.