Foreign Medical Students Face Difficulties in the U.S.

[Education ★★★★]


(P1) International students seeking a medical degree in the United States face serious stumbling blocks. First, there is often a language barrier. Students from non-English speaking countries could have a hard time understanding their work or communicating with professors.

(P2) Also, a medical education is very costly. First, students must complete an undergraduate degree. Then, most medical schools require at least four years of study. After medical school, students do at least three more years of training in their specific medical fields. They do receive some pay for this work. In addition, many medical programs at public universities in the U.S. do not accept international students. And private universities have fewer openings, creating a great deal of competition.

(P3) However, receiving a medical education in the U.S. is not impossible. Fatima Ismail is proof. The 32-year-old from Dubai says she knew she wanted to be a doctor at a very early age. “I was always fascinated by the brain and how it functions, and I love working with children. There is a huge population of children with developmental disabilities that are not taken care of very well in the Middle East in general and my home country, in particular.”

(P4) So, Ismail completed medical school in her home country. Then, she applied to a residency program at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. Ismail spent time as an exchange student at Johns Hopkins during her time in medical school.

(P5) She says many of her fellow students applied to more than 10 or even 20 different programs. “It’s a very competitive process. Being an international medical school graduate, we have fewer chances to be accepted because the priority would be for the U.S. graduates. Having said that, it’s not impossible. All that you need to do is, basically, early planning.”

(P6) Planning is highly important for foreign students seeking admission to U.S. medical schools. Paul White is the director of medical school admissions at Johns Hopkins. He says some schools do accept students with undergraduate degrees from their home countries. But most, he says, require U.S. study. “So we say we want to see at least one year of additional coursework in any area in the U.S. just so we can see the kinds of courses they are capable of taking and how well they may perform in those courses. And there’s no question that if they do well in the U.S., and they do well on the medical college’s admissions test, then they’ll be eligible for admission.”

(P7) India native, Karum Arora, is in his fourth year of medical school at Johns Hopkins. He studies eye diseases. He also completed his undergraduate studies at Johns Hopkins, as well as a two-year research program in his field. Arora says the professors he knew in his earlier studies helped him gain acceptance to the medical school. “I can’t even express in words how great my mentors were during those two years. And they were at Hopkins as well, and they both supported me when I applied for med school, guided me through medical school, worked on projects, and are supporting me now as I apply for residency as well.”

(P8) School administrators suggest international students should apply to residency programs in the U.S. after completing medical school at home. Or they should begin their American medical education at the undergraduate level. But, officials say, even candidates with the strongest history of study will face fierce competition.

WORDS: 565


VOCABULARY: stumbling blocks, applied, fellow, eligible, mentors, fierce


If you found the passage difficult to read or had problems understanding specific words or idiomatic expressions, please discuss them with your tutor. The following discussion questions should be answered in your own words and with your own arguments.

  1. Briefly, summarize the content of the article in your own words.
  2. Why do you think students want to study medicine in the USA instead of in their own country?
  3. Do you think it’s important to have mentors in life?
  4. Is there competition between students in your country to be admitted to universities? Why or why not?


  1. According to the article, language obstacles occasionally occur with foreign students studying in the USA. (T or F)
  2. According to the article, a lot of public medical colleges accept international students and private colleges accept a handful of med students. (T or F)
  3. Fatima Ismail was an _____________ student at a university in Baltimore, Maryland.
  4. _____________ is extremely important for international students who want to be admitted into a medical university in the USA.
  5. Executives at medical universities in the USA recommend that international students complete _________________ in their home country before applying for residency programs in the US.


What do the following expressions or phrases mean?

  • face serious difficulties (P1)
  • a great deal of competition (P2)
  • in his field (P7)
  • med school (P7)

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Image source: by Lynn Sladky AP

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