Medical schools in the United States have different policies when it comes to accepting international applicants, so it's essential to confirm each school's policy before applying. This was the advice I received when I was a high school student in Tanzania while I was considering where to apply to university. My advisor made it clear that my chances of being accepted into a US medical school were slim, mainly because very few schools accepted international students and, as a low-income student, my advisor warned me that a medical degree in the United States was financially inaccessible. Despite this, I decided to take a chance anyway.
From a very young age, I wanted to be a doctor and I saw medical education in the United States as an opportunity to close the knowledge gap that currently exists. I applied extensively to universities around the country that not only accepted non-US citizens, but they also provided financial aid to cover attendance costs. I was accepted to Yale University, where I earned a degree in molecular, cellular, and developmental biology, a specialty that met most pre-medicine requirements. To reinforce my request, I conducted research on malaria and other parasitic infections for more than two years, culminating in an internship with the World Health Organization's Global Malaria Program.
Finally, I took graduate courses during college and for another year afterward, and successfully graduated with a master's degree in public health from the Yale School of Public Health. As the time to apply to medical school approached, I became discouraged to discover that there were few resources to help students like me. I searched a lot of information online, sometimes even relying on blogs and informal sites to determine my eligibility. However, many of my questions about visas during medical school, financial aid for international students, and the viability of applying for them went unanswered.
Fortunately, I found F-1 Doctors - an online platform that offers specific resources for applying as an international student. This includes webinars, a personalized Excel spreadsheet on medical schools that accept international students and their respective financial aid policies, and links to private institutions that provide loans to non-US citizens. In just over a year, F-1 Doctors has gone from having fewer than 20 mentors to more than 130 who represent 44 countries from various health professional fields. For those who wish to remain in the United States after graduating from a health professions school in the US, F-1 Doctors can be a useful tool to strengthen a portfolio of health professionals that is representative of the diverse patient populations in this country.
Our mission is to cultivate a community of foreign-born health workers who support each other through this free online platform and break the myths about applying as a non-US citizen. Regardless of the career choice that non-Americans dream of becoming health professionals to bring about a change in the unequal delivery of health care. As F-1 Doctors continues to expand its network across the country, we aspire to make the health professions school application process more accessible so that international students don't feel like they should go through this process alone.