IMP Pathways to Residency

Manisha Uppal and Sameeha Sajid

From left to right: Manisha Uppal, MD and Sameeha Sajid, MD

Not all pathways leading to U.S. residency programs look the same, which is why the George Washington University (GW) Office of International Medicine Programs (IMP) offers a vast array of opportunities for aspiring U.S. residency applicants at different stages of their medical education.

For nearly 20 years, IMP’s International Clinical Electives Program (ICEP) has allowed international medical students to complete four-week clinical rotations at GW, while also giving GW students the opportunity to travel abroad to complete their rotations at affiliated institutions. IMP’s Medical Research Fellowship Program (MRFP), meanwhile, offers a structured curriculum in which research fellows benefit from mentorship by GW faculty members and support for ongoing clinical research projects that are submitted to medical journals. Fellows also gain exposure to the U.S. health care system through weekly clinical observation, and receive guidance and advising as they prepare to apply for U.S. residency programs.

In addition to being first-year residents in the GW School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS) Department of Medicine, Sameeha Sajid, MD, and Manisha Uppal, MD, are also alumni of these two IMP programs. Sajid, as part of the ICEP program, completed her month-long clinical rotation at GW SMHS while a medical student at Khalifa University College of Medicine and Health Sciences in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Uppal came to GW as an MFRP research fellow after she finished her medical degree at Lady Hardinge Medical College at the University of Delhi in New Delhi, India. Both found their unique experiences at GW integral to their transition into residency.

Read below to hear more about Sajid’s and Uppal’s experiences in their respective IMP programs, their time in residency, and their advice to those looking to embark on a similar path.


How do you think your experience in ICEP (for Sajid) and in MRFP (for Uppal) prepared you for residency training at GW?

Sajid: As a fourth-year medical student, I had an opportunity to do an elective in Endocrinology at GW, and the whole experience made it even clearer that this is the place for me. I got a chance to interact with and work alongside incredible attendings and fellows. Not only did the month help me improve my clinical knowledge and skills, it also gave me insight about the U.S. medical system and multiple opportunities for research.

After a month, I noticed a stark difference in my level of confidence, knowledge, and clinical skills while working in the U.S. health care system. I had made meaningful connections and strengthened my application with letters of recommendation and more research. More importantly, I noticed that the culture at GW was focused towards education and growth of young physicians, which made the program even more appealing to me.

Uppal: The MRFP was a fantastic well-rounded learning opportunity that not only helped me gain insight into the U.S. health care and medical education system, but also allowed me to build on my clinical and research skills while getting regular feedback from the faculty. Coming from an entirely different system, it helped ease some of the nerves around the transition as I gained familiarity with the EMR systems and hospital workflow.


Describe what it felt like to learn that you had matched into residency this past March.

Sajid: I was over the moon once I had found that I had matched into residency. All those years of hard work had finally paid off; my dream had come true!

Uppal: I really enjoyed my time at GW as a research scholar and was thrilled to learn that I matched at my first choice. Match day for me was a mixture of gratitude, joy, and excitement for what lay ahead!


How has your experience in GW’s Internal Medicine Residency Program been thus far? In addition, how has the integration process been within your department, GW SMHS, and the greater Washington, D.C., area? Is there anything that surprised you?

Sajid: I had always known that residency was going to be a big learning curve especially during the initial months, however, I was pleasantly surprised with the amount of support around me. I was never truly stuck alone in a difficult situation; the program is designed in a way that there was always help around me.

The past three months at GW and in D.C. have been nothing less than exciting. Everyone at GW, including faculty, residents, other interns, and rest of the medical staff, is extremely welcoming. The faculty and seniors are extremely supportive towards the growth of new interns, and they make sure to help with the integration process. In addition, living in a vibrant, multicultural city like D.C. is just the cherry on top. D.C. is filled with people, culture, and cuisines from around the world. No matter who you are or where you are from, you will find people and things to do that are close to home for you!

Uppal: While I continue to learn something new and be challenged by unique situations during intern year, my experience in the MRFP made the transition much smoother. It has been great to see the like-mindedness amongst the diverse group of residents here; how they work together to uplift each other and realize shared goals. One of the many reasons I wanted to train at GW was because I deeply value the shared sense of responsibility towards the community at the program, as well as the efforts being made to make health care more inclusive. I am still learning to be more efficient with my time, but I hope to be more involved in these opportunities in the coming months. The zest for learning and teaching here is also undeniable and something I am enjoying being a part of.


What overall advice do you have for IMGs who are interested in applying to U.S. residency programs?

Sajid: I would highly recommend IMGs to schedule their electives in programs that they think are the best match for them. This not only provides the opportunity to familiarize yourself with the U.S. medical system, but also gives you a chance to observe and compare the culture of various programs to help choose the program that would be the best for you. Furthermore, electives are also a great way to get involved with the faculty and research projects.

Uppal: If you remain dedicated, sincere, and willing to learn, the journey can be quite rewarding. My only advice would be to find opportunities where you can demonstrate these values and show why you would be a strong resident. Speedbumps are inevitable, but do not be disheartened. Take every setback as an opportunity to grow as a person and fill any knowledge gap. An often-understated quality of a resident is resilience, and you would be surprised by how strong a person you will be at the end. Stay connected with friends and family, and consider reaching out to seniors and others who have gone through the process – they can be a great resource.

IMP is proud to support Sajid, Uppal, and all those at any stage of their medical education journey. For more information about ICEP, MRFP, and other IMP programs, contact us at