Applying to medical school is tough enough. But when you’re an international student, you’ve got double the hurdles to cross. Azan Virji discovered that as a Tanzanian applicant – even one with a bachelor’s and master’s degree in public health from Yale. Turns out fewer than 50 American institutions consider applicants from outside the U.S. Further, they accept those students at just half the rate of citizens. Those slim chances of acceptance, combined with little readily available information on financial aid opportunities, prompted Virji to vow to help others in his situation.
“When I was applying to medical school, I had no one to talk to as an international, as someone applying to medical school, as someone seeking financial aid,” Virji told reporters recently. “Always in the back of my mind, I thought, ‘If I get in, I’ll do something about this.’”
And so, he did. Virji, now in his second year at Harvard Medical School, launched F-1 Doctors, an organization comprised of international medical students who offer help to applicants facing the same challenges they did. Along with co-founders Ghazal Aghagoli, an Iranian/Canadian student, and Ben Gallo Marin from Nicaragua, both students at Brown University’s Warren Alpert Medical School, there are more than 80 volunteers from 30 countries involved.
Taking its name from the student visa designation, the group holds webinars and offers mentorships and personal guidance on a range of issues including immigration requirements, financial aid, school admissions processes and MCAT tips.
“I started F-1 Doctors for three reasons,” Virji says on the organization’s website. “One is to improve the visibility around international students in US medical schools, dental schools, and residencies. Second is to build a network of international healthcare professionals. And third, most importantly, is to allow for internationals interested in the healthcare field to find mentors who can guide them through the application process.”
Launched earlier this year, F-1 Doctors already has helped more than 60 students navigate the sometimes complex U.S. medical school system.
WOLFPACC applauds efforts to help international students thrive in medical school. And we can help. No matter where you hail from, call 904-209-3140 to learn about our USMLE and COMLEX review courses and one-on-one mentoring programs.
Photo by Subhash Nusetti