The Looming 2023 deadline: Why 1st year international medical students may not be able to practice in USA

In 2013, the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG) declared that effective in 2023, physicians applying for ECFMG Certification will be required to graduate from a medical school that has been appropriately accredited. In order to do this, accreditation agencies must go through a formal process of recognition of their medical curriculum that uses criteria comparable to globally accepted criteria. This does not mean that individual medical schools need to be accredited through this process, but the national accreditation agency or body that accredits the medical school in that country needs to be recognized. Although 2023 seems far away, students who are enrolling in an international medical school in 2017 will be affected as they graduate in 2023.

Each country’s accreditation bodies have to go through this recognition process before 2023 or else ECFMG will not issue an ECFMG Certification, which affects medical students who are taking the USMLE and applying for residency programs in the USA.

Which Countries/Accrediting Bodies Have Already Received Recognition? 


Currently, the Liaison Committee for Medical Education (LCME), the accrediting agency for US medical schools passed ECFMG/WFME’s recognition standards.


The Caribbean Accreditation Authority for Education in Medicine and other Health Professions (CAAM-HP)is the legally constituted body to ensure that accredited schools meet the education requirements for further training and the health care needs of the people in the Caribbean.


Turkey also participated in WFME’s recognition of accreditation process with UTEAK an independent accreditation body in Turkey.

What Happens after 2023 and How Will this Affect Me? 

After 2023, the medical students from those countries whose accreditation agencies did not go through the recognition process will most likely be affected, only if they plan to practice in the USA. Students from these medical schools cannot receive an ECFMG certification, which is necessary for all IMG (international medical graduates) to complete in order to register for the USMLE exam and apply for US residency training programs.

Recognition is NOT the same as Accreditation 

ECFMG does not accredit medical schools nor has any authority to do so. However, they along with the help of the WFME (World Federation of Medical Education), are helping accrediting bodies go through the process of recognizing their accreditation.  Many medical schools falsely advertise that they are “Recognized by the Medical Board of California or FAIMER”, but that essentially means nothing.   The only recognition that is important is in the case of ECFMG’s 2023 process, which would affect international medical graduates who want to practice in the USA.

If you want to see what is the accrediting body in your country, you can look through the Directory of Organizations that Recognize/Accredit Medical Schools (DORA).


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