Sunday, December 31, 2017

My USMLE journey by IkaN


A couple of you wanted me to write about my USMLE journey - I am almost at the end so lemme start telling you about my story.

I was born and brought up in Mumbai, India where I also did my medical school. I've always wanted to go to somewhere different. I love traveling, I love meeting new people. My parents live in Dubai so I've enjoyed both - life in my home country and life outside India.

I remember reading from Ganong in first year. It mentioned "USMLE" and I somehow always knew this word. What it meant.

I had transferred to a different medical school in my second year. A lot of students were preparing for the USMLE here. So in second year, I downloaded Kaplan videos, got Kaplan notes and started studying (not too hard though!)

Fast forward to 2014, my final year, when I gave my step 1. I come from a family that is not rich or fancy but supports big dreams. My financial status wouldn't allow me to be where I am right now. But my parents did.

Electives, for me, seemed like the costliest part of my journey. I knew that if I have given step 1 early, I will be allowed to go to places such as Cleveland Clinic Foundaton (CCF) and Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) on scholarship. In 2015, a month of electives would cost you 2,500$ and at least 2 months of USCE was needed to apply for residency.

I gave my exam, applied for electives at CCF and CWRU - and did not hear back from them :(

I was just a student (with no money lol). In 2015, I gave up on USMLE and said to myself that hey, it's okay. If it is meant to be, it will be. I tried my best - I should leave out all the rest to Allah.

My parents asked me to apply for electives the next year as well. I did but I was preparing for Indian residency exams that year.


I did my electives in 2016 Jan-April, gave my CS exam and came back to India. I was meant to graduate in March/May 2016 but since I went out for electives, I had to complete my internship and graduated in December 2016.

I also had a one year compulsory rural bond to do in India, I did a part of it and it helped me with my finances required to apply for the match. I was working as an illustrator for First Aid, an editor for USMLERx and blogging - which helped too. (Shout out to Mufaddal, my brother, who made all of this possible indirectly by passing on his skills to me.)

I gave my CK in July 2017 I applied for the match in September 2017 - it has been an amazing journey so far.

I've got to meet new people, learn about different experiences and enjoy my time. It's humbling. It maybe overwhelming but I have always felt grateful and happy. I have laughed till my stomach hurts. Cried? I don't think so :)

I gave my step 3 in Dec 2017 and I am expecting my match results in March 2018.

I hope it works out - I know it will!

So this is my journey so far. Thank you to everyone who has made this possible. To seniors who guide you. To study buddies. To people online who give you advice. To mentors who give you support. To the kind people who sanctioned me loans. To the lovely people who invited me to stay at their houses. To strangers that become friends. To hundreds of people who have made this possible. When I match, it won't be me who made it alone. It will be thanks to all these people who have helped me in their little but significant ways. Thank you to everyone!

PS: I am taking questions on the USMLE journey. Lemme know if you have any, I'll answer them this month.


  1. ❤❤❤ your journey will inspire a lot of people not to give up on their dreams including me!

  2. Very much inspiring❤ Congo mam and all the best fo upcoming days!

  3. Very much inspiring❤ Congo mam and all the best fo upcoming days!

  4. thank you ikaN for sharing this

  5. First of all, thank you so much for sharing your experience. You are lucky as you know about USMLE from your very first year. But for guys like me, can u please explain what are the advantages of doing a post graduation through USMLE rather than doing it here in India? Also, being a middle class medico, I always wanted to know this. What is the approximate
    total amount I must have in my pocket, before I could think of cracking USMLE and till I start earning there?

    1. Both are different systems, there's no advantage of one over the other except for research and better training opportunities.

      I'll tell you what my mom told me about costs - give the first step, worry about the rest later. Step 1 costs 900$

      The entire journey is about 20,000$ if not more but the good part is, you can take loans and it isn't paid all at once.

      Do not give up your dreams on finances alone.

  6. Hi Great posts. I have 2 questions and will be grateful if you can respond:
    - Did you do your USMLE-Step 1 during the 4 years of study, meaning before your final internship year?
    - Looks like you did your electives during your internship year by breaking/extending it. Do colleges allow you to break/extend your Internship in India?

    1. I took my USMLE during my final year of medical school.

      Yes, extending internship is allowed.

  7. Hi! Wonderful journey! Can absouletely relate to you. Can you please let me know if electives is important? Cab we not just skip the electives? Also what were your step scores please?

    1. Thank you.

      Yes, electives is important because:

      1. You need US clinical experience to know that you like working here.

      2. Letters of recommendation from US faculty is an important part of your application.

      3. It's a requirement for some hospitals without which you won't be granted an interview.

      You should not skip electives, do at least 2 months of electives / observership.

      Email me regarding the scores.

    2. Sure. What's your email Id?

  8. Congratulations on your journey and success so far! It's a remarkable feat to have given Step 1 during Final year. Do you mind sharing approximately how much time did you devote studying for it daily and over how many months? And were you able to go through UWorld during that time? Once again, thank you for helping out in advance.

    1. Thank youuuuu!

      I've detailed it in this blog

      I studied after college, the medicine and pediatrics postings helped a lot . I think I would study all day, every day - if I'm not sleeping, eating or praying - I was studying. Even on rounds I would study. My friends thought I was dead lol.

      Yes, UW is key.

  9. Thank you so much for sharing this Ikan. I had just one question. Usmle is a time-consuming process. When even your medical friends are like 2 years ahead of you and while you are still applying, with still a chance that you might not match,what kept you going throughout this journey? It's okay that you can complete the bond in 1 year,which everyone eventually has to,and then there's a years drop-like September to July when you actually start residency,in case that doesn't work out,you have to consider giving pg CET here then. Would this time frame scare you,and instead make you doubt your decision,when pg CET is a less risky way out and ultimately going to be the resort when everything will fail ?

    1. Hi, yes, it is scary. But I knew it's doable and the years are worth it.

      My friends have given third attempt in PG CET and still haven't got a seat. Some are now considering doing MLE. It makes me wonder - is it really less risky?

    2. That gives me some courage! Thank you so much! ��

  10. Hello there! I'm sorry if I'm offending you but I didn't know of your channel till now... And from what I've come across ,I believe you cleared the usmle? And now are you eligible to go study in the US? OR what is this about? You go and get to practice in the US?


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