IMG Secrets

How to Become a Surgeon in Canada as an IMG?

Becoming a surgeon in Canada as an International Medical Graduate (IMG) involves several steps and requirements. There are many different pathways IMGs can take. The process can be complex and competitive, but with dedication and persistence, it is possible to achieve your goal. In this article, I will tell you the general steps and tips to match into surgical residency. Let’s jump on this right away!

What Are the Steps to Become a Surgeon in Canada?

  1. Assess your eligibility: Verify if you meet the basic requirements to work as a physician in Canada. This includes having completed medical school from a WHO recognized institution, holding a valid medical degree, and almost always having completed postgraduate training in your home country. You can check the status of your medical college/school by clicking here

  2. Document evaluation: Have your medical degree and postgraduate training evaluated by the Medical Council of Canada (MCC) to determine their comparability to Canadian standards. This step will help you receive a letter from MCC stating that your credentials are evaluated. Submit your documents for verification here

  3. Complete the Qualifying Examinations: Medical Council of Canada Qualifying Examination (MCCQE 1) is a computer based exam consisting of a written component. As an IMG, your focus should be to not just pass, but to obtain a score of 260 or higher. There is an objective structured clinical examination called National Assessment Collaboration (NAC). These exams assess your clinical skills and knowledge. Passing both parts is necessary to be eligible for licensure. You can find out more information about MCCQE1 by clicking here and about NAC here

  4. Language proficiency: Demonstrate proficiency in either English or French by passing the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) or the Test d’Évaluation de Français (TEF). To book an IELTS test, click here. To book the French test check here. 

  5. Postgraduate training in Canada: Apply for a residency program in surgery through the Canadian Resident Matching Service (CaRMS). The competition for residency positions can be intense, so it’s important to have a strong application, including letters of recommendation, research experience, and clinical rotations. I will provide you some specific tips below to increase your success of matching into a surgical specialty residency program. Explore the details of CaRMS by clicking here

  6. Complete residency training: Successfully complete the residency program in surgery, which typically lasts five years. The surgery residency is offered in 17 Universities across Canada and you can access the details by clicking here. This involves gaining practical experience and acquiring the necessary skills under the supervision of experienced surgeons.

  7. Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada (RCPSC) certification: After completing residency training, you must pass the Royal College Examination in General Surgery to obtain certification as a specialist in surgery in Canada. This is the final exit exam after residency and consists of a written and a oral component. 

  8. Licensure: Apply for licensure from the provincial medical regulatory authority in the province where you intend to practice. Although, each province may have its own specific requirements for licensure, once Royal College certified getting a licensure should be straight forward. For e.g., in the province in Ontario, this is College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario. 

  9. If you are someone who is experienced and certified from an approved jurisdiction or otherwise eligible, there are options to become a consultant without having to repeat residency all over again. You can check the article about this by clicking here.

It’s important to note that the process may vary slightly depending on the province, and there may be additional requirements or assessments specific to certain provinces. If you browse the website of College of Physicians and Surgeons website in each province or contact the medical regulatory authority in the province where you plan to practice, you will find detailed information about the process.

How to Match Into Surgical Specialties in Canada as an IMG?

1. Dedication & Passion

First and foremost, it’s crucial to understand that programs in Canada seek individuals who are genuinely dedicated and passionate about their chosen specialty. 

Let’s take cardiac surgery as an example. It’s important to showcase prior experience as an IMG in cardiac surgery to demonstrate your commitment. This means you either have worked in Cardiac Surgery or have completed specialization in the specialty. Programs want to avoid situations where a resident decides to quit after being hired, so they are particularly interested in applicants who already have some exposure and experience in their desired field.

2. Know The Specialty 

Secondly, it’s vital that you have a clear understanding of what you’re getting into. For instance, if you aspire to pursue neurosurgery, you must be aware of the demanding nature of the specialty, with long working hours and a heavy clinical workload. It is essential to showcase your commitment and provide evidence of your experience in the specific specialty you’re interested in. 

3. Demonstrate Research Experience in Your Sub specialty

Thirdly, having research experience in your chosen subspecialty can be highly beneficial. As an IMG, you often have a couple of years before entering a program in Canada. Utilize this time effectively by engaging in productive research. Seek positions as a research fellow, strive to publish abstracts and papers in your area of interest, and actively contribute to the academic community. Show initiative by proposing ideas for book chapters, case reports, systematic reviews, or meta-analyses. Building a strong research portfolio alongside Canadian consultants will significantly enhance your CV.

4. Volunteer in your desired specialty 

If finding a job proves challenging, consider volunteering in your desired specialization. Voluntary work can help you establish connections, gain insight into the Canadian work culture, and closely interact with Canadian consultants. When applying for a program and going through interviews, you’ll be able to draw upon your experiences to discuss both the similarities and differences between the Canadian program and your home country’s.

Here is a guide on how to look for paid jobs in Canada. 

5. Reference Letter from your sub-specialization of interest

When obtaining reference letters, it is valuable to have one from a surgeon in your home country who has personally witnessed your work. While a letter from a high-ranking individual may carry weight, it’s more important to have someone who can genuinely vouch for your clinical skills and abilities. 

Keep in mind that competition among IMGs for residency spots in Canada is fierce. If you’re seeking guidance and support to increase your chances of success, you can visit the website www.imgsecrets.com, where you’ll find relevant information and assistance.

6. Review Articles in Your Specialty

While you’re working or volunteering, it’s worth considering offering to review articles within your specialty for experienced consultants. In Canada, established consultants often receive requests to review peer-reviewed articles. Engage with them and express your willingness to assist with article reviews. This not only enhances your knowledge and academic growth but also provides valuable support to the reviewers in their process. It’s a mutually beneficial opportunity to contribute to the field and foster professional relationships.

7. Follow Journals on Social Media

Many medical journals have a presence on social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube. Follow these journals and engage with their published content. You can provide constructive suggestions to the authors, fostering a beneficial relationship. Building connections in this manner is vital since matching into surgical specialties is a challenging endeavor. 

8. Attend Conferences in Your Specialty 

Lastly, if you have identified your desired specialization, which i hope you already have, it’s highly recommended to attend conferences in Canada. These events offer excellent opportunities to meet new people, including program directors from various institutions. Engage with them professionally, highlighting your work and accomplishments. Impressing them with your application during the matching process can significantly boost your chances of success.

These simple yet crucial steps will help you package yourself effectively, increasing your chances of matching into a residency program.

To achieve success, it’s essential to think “out of the box” and generate innovative ideas. Embracing a creative mindset allows you to explore unconventional paths and discover new approaches to reach your goals. By challenging traditional methods and seeking fresh perspectives, you can differentiate yourself and stand out from the competition. Remember, being open to novel ideas and embracing creativity often leads to unique opportunities and increased chances of success.

By Dr. Rajeev Iyer, MBBS, MD, FASA

Associate Professor of Anesthesiology, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, USA.

The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of the University of Pennsylvania or any other mentioned institutions. It is important to recognize that the perspectives shared are personal and should not be attributed to any specific organization or institution.


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