How and Where to Apply for Clinical Electives in the USA and Canada

There is a strong desire to apply for electives in the USA by medical students worldwide. Whether you are a US citizen at a Caribbean medical school, or an international medical student at a foreign school, there are a number of channels of applying for electives in the USA/Canada. The amount of time involved to research clinical placements, gather documents for requirements, and planning housing and logistics can be stressful. Here are some services and ways that can help you begin your search for clinical rotations in the USA/Canada.

Applying to Canada

  1. AFMC – Student Portal

The Association of Faculties of Medicine of Canada (AFMC) created a centralized application service for students who wish to apply for clinical electives in Canada. Currently these are institutions that are accepting applications through the Student Portal:

  • University of Alberta
  • University of Calgary
  • Dalhousie University
  • McGill University
  • McMaster University
    Memorial University of Newfoundland
  • Northern Ontario School of Medicine
  • University of Ottawa
  •  Queen’s University
  •  University of Toronto
  •  Western University
  • University of Manitoba

However, not all Canadian schools will accept applications through this centralized service. The schools list below you must apply for clinical electives directly to their school:

You can register for an account on the website however you are asked to pay a $500 registration fee upfront before even starting an application. This is a deterrent for using their application service and hopefully they will change this model soon.

 Applying to the USA

VSAS – Visiting Student Application Service

Only medical students from US medical schools (LCME accredited) are allowed to us this service. This is the best way for US medical students to complete clinical electives at other teaching hospitals in the US. This is the best way for you to apply for clinical rotations where you hope to complete your residency program.

GHLO – Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC)

Your medical school has to be part of the GHLO network and only then you can apply for medical schools in the USA (and elsewhere). There are a number of US medical schools in the network, but some of them only accept students enrolled in the GHLO program. Using GHLO, you can also apply to clinical electives outside the USA to 20 other countries.

GEMx – Global Exchange in Medicine by ECFMG

Similar to GHLO, your school has to be a part of the GEMx network in order for you to apply to clinical electives. However, they only have 2 places where you can apply in the USA:

  • University of Arizona
  • Physician Affiliate Group of New York (PAGNY)

Applying to US Medical Schools Directly

The other way to apply for clinical electives at US medical schools is to apply to directly through their website. Some medical schools do not accept medical students from foreign medical schools (including Caribbean schools) at all.

A starting point is by looking through the EEC –Extramural Electives Compendium (although now severely outdated). In the Extramural electives compendium, you can search by state and then select “schools that accept international visiting students”. After searching the schools that accept international visiting students or non-LCME students, you can go directly to their website and apply.

US Medical Schools Accepting International Medical Students (and/or Caribbean med students)

*No international students, but Caribbean students eligible

Typically, medical schools in Illinois and New York tend to accept the most international medical students for clinical rotations. Starting your search in those two states would be helpful for you to find a medical school that would accept you for a clinical rotation. Remember, that you are not allowed to do more than 12 weeks of clinical rotations in New York otherwise you jeopardize being accepted into a future US residency program. Read more about this law here.

Apply and join the discussion today!

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