Heather Armson, M.D.; Rod Crutcher, M.D.


Many Canadian-trained physicians have come from immigrant backgrounds and may have experienced challenges in both their personal and professional lives related to ethnicity, gender, religious beliefs or culture. Despite their variable backgrounds, their medical training across Canada will have been relatively consistent in terms of content, learning process and skill development. In contrast, the IMG may face issues directly related to immigration; they may also experience a very different medical training and practice environment. These differences are a common source of misunderstanding and frustration to both the IMG and the faculty who teach them. Examination, understanding and attention to these issues will contribute to the creation of a more effective training environment.


International Medical Graduates (IMGs) are physicians whose medical degree was obtained at a medical school outside Canada or the USA. The medical school must be listed in the World Directory of Medical Schools, published by the World Health Organization, or in the International Medical Education Directory (FAIMER).

There are various physicians that fall into the category of IMG (Watt, Lake, Cabrnoch, & Leonard, 2003):

1. Canadian IMGs

  • Canadian citizens who have completed their medical training outside of Canada or the USA.

2. Visa IMGs

  • Foreign trained medical graduates who have been recruited to meet the needs of Canadian postgraduate training programs or to address, temporarily, shortages within the workforce. They hold working visas and function as physicians. Many of these physicians are from the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Australia or South Africa.

  • Foreign trained medical graduates who are sponsored (often by their governments) to train in specific medical schools or postgraduate training programs with the expectation that they will return to their sponsoring countries. A significant proportion of these IMGs do not return to their home country and choose to remain in Canada.

3. Immigrant IMGs

  • Immigrants to Canada who hold recognized medical degrees and access training through:

    • IMG-specific programs (These programs often provide significant orientation processes.)
    • The CaRMS second iteration match (These residents may enter the residency program with no orientation.)