The Best Christmas Present Ever!

  • IMG
  • 8-year GAP from med school graduation
  • Step 1 – 209; Step 2 – 211; CS – Pass;
  • Step 3 – FAIL on first attempt; 207 on second attempt
  • Two years of not successfully matching
  • Mother of 3 young children


What are her chances of matching this year?

I am an IMG that graduated in 2008. I first came to the U.S on a student F1 visa in 2010. I did a masters program in Pharmaceutical Sciences (I got a scholarship to study this) and graduated in 2012. After I graduated, my visa status was changed to OPT F1 visa so I started looking for a job. While doing that I started reading for my step 1. I got a part time job with a university lab in October. My step 1 was scheduled for Oct-Dec 2012 period. I could not take it as I felt I was not prepared, so I moved it to Jan-Mar 2013 and decided to take Kaplan classes. After lots of reading and Uworld, I took NBME and I did not do well so I cancelled my exam and had to pay again for the exam. After paying my next eligibility was May-Jul 2013. I started reading again. I was pregnant with my second child at this time. I took the exam at the end of July and scored 209. I was happy I passed but it was not a good score. I decided to focus on step 2 CS and CK. I gave birth to my 2nd son in Dec 2013 and started full reading again while taking care of him. My husband was helpful in taking care of my 1st son who was 2 years at that time, my mom also came to help (support is really great if you have one, use it wisely). When I had free time from my job, I decided to do some observerships which I did in internal med and family med for 2 months.

I took my CS in Atlanta at this time and passed (for CS, I took a CS course in Florida which I believed helped me succeed in the exam). Reading with a baby was not easy but I took my CK in late Oct 2014 and scored 211. Oh man, I was 2 points above passing, but I still passed but was down because it was a low score.

I applied in the match 2 years ago for family med in late Nov when my ECFMG cert came out on advice of some people that is more IMG friendly than my first choice psychiatry (I had always wanted psychiatry since med school). I got 1 interview. I believed I did poorly on the interview and so I did not match.

My OPT visa status expired as I extended it already so I had to change to F2 dependent status (my husband was also a student on F1 visa) and this visa status did not let me work so I planned to use my time to read for step 3.  

So in 2015, I decided to pursue my passion – psychiatry and read for step 3. I googled programs in my area for grand rounds I can attend. The only program that could allow me attend their grand rounds with no problem was 1 hour away from me. I decided to be going for every grand round which was held bi-monthly. I also googled psychiatrists in my area and called them on phone to ask if I could shadow any one of them. One of them replied positively and so I started a psychiatry observership in his clinic. I also started a volunteer position in a Crises Rape Center which helped in my interpersonal skills.

I was reading my step 3 with a friend and I felt I was ready so I took it in August so I can have the result before Sept 15, but alas on Sept 9 I got my result - 189 (1 point from passing).    My world came crashing down. I cried and cried because now my failed score will reflect on my application.

I almost did not apply, but my husband encouraged me to apply still. I did so but without full confidence. Before the ranking, I ended up with 4 interviews (I was surprised myself) but come March 2016, I did not match again.

I wept and told myself it was over that maybe medicine in the US was not meant for me. I started looking at other options like taking PLAB for the UK which most of my friends took and are now working as doctors in the UK. My husband still encouraged me to re-take step 3 so that I know with a clear conscience that I used all my resources to apply. So I started reading again. Meanwhile I was still attending grand rounds in that program. The chairman of the Psychiatry department took an interest in me and asked me if I will write papers with him and be part of an externship program he was trying to establish in the program. I agreed. He is forensic psychiatrist so I also worked on some forensic cases that came into the office, I wrote manuscripts and read articles for review and also presented some posters. When the time application came closer, I got a strong LOR from him, I was happy. But I still had my step 3.   

Sept 15, 2016 came and I didn’t apply because I had not taken the step 3.  I became pregnant again so it became harder to read with all the morning sickness. I kept reading and after pushing my exam date to a few weeks later I took it in Oct 2016. After I took it, I applied but no interviews. I got my result in Nov 2016 and it was 207.  I was happy I passed and really praised God.  After that I got 3 interviews, 1 pre-match interview and 2 match interviews.  I went for all. About 18 days after my pre-match interview, this Dec 2016, I got a call from the pre-match program-offering me a position for the 2017/2018 PGY1 year.    I was so elated and jumped for joy. Best Christmas gift ever (lol). After this long I happily accepted it.

As for my visa status, I told you my husband is in school and I was on F2 dependent visa. Well my husband is doing his PhD and so he applied for the National Interest Waiver in 2015 and in Oct 2016, we got our green card permanent residency status through that program. It only can be God that did it. So now I do not need any visa help.

I am so grateful to God, my husband and family. Also to the medical mafia team Dr. Barone put up. You helped me remember some points for the exams. Thank you all. It is a long road, but I believe through my experience that you should not give up and if you persevere till the end, you’ll have great reward.


S.O  December 25, 2016


#12 Rubena Keise 2017-05-13 11:16
Remarkable resilience. You inspire me. Wish you were part of my inner circle. Congratulations.
#11 Carla Bermudez 2017-01-25 18:55
Wow, it's a wonderful and hopeful story! I know what it is to have many years graduated!, have kids, take care of them, look for a job, for a visa!, thank you so much!!! Your story is so important for me! You gave me back my hopes! After the storm, always comes the calm!
#10 MO S 2017-01-25 02:47
That is an amazing and very motivated story. Thanks to all Medical Mafia. Barone Rocks 8)
#9 Twosixty S 2017-01-08 17:55
Absolutely incredible
#8 Tim B 2017-01-08 17:54
That is quite an amazing story! It gives me some hope since first year did not work for me, but I still find it tough on both a mental and emotional level due to all the stress, finances, etc.
#7 Raymond O 2017-01-07 01:12
Awesome job!
#6 Kristina V 2017-01-07 01:11
Love it!! Never give up :lol:
#5 Arash P 2016-12-29 20:58
SO inspiring stories! thanks Dr Barone for sharing them. These stories are so motivating! keep rock Dr Barone!
#4 Marina L 2016-12-29 20:57
What an amazing success story !!!! Thank you for sharing and giving the rest of us hope!!!
#3 Christina 2016-12-28 18:28
This is just so inspirational! Congrats!!!! Keep up the hard work and persistence.
Category: Success

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