IFMSA-CFMS International Exchange Program
Application for the Summer 2017 season will open in October 2016.
CFMS participates in an international exchange program where medical students undertake clinical electives or research projects, each four-weeks long, in a foreign country or region. The exchange program is run independently by each host country or region. It is for students who are independent, self-directed, open-minded, and able to handle unforeseen challenges and take learning into his or her own hands.
This past season (Summer 2015), over 70 Canadian medical students participated in the program. In the upcoming season, a total of 170 placement spots are available across 47 countries and regions (highlighted in yellow in the map below).
National Exchange Officers (NEOs) and a team of Local Exchange Officers (LEOs) at each medical school facilitate the process for the outgoing Canadian medical students, as well as for the incoming international medical students. Social Committee Leads (SCLs) play a key role in welcoming international medical students and in organizing social activities.
National Exchange Officers (NEOs):
| Kelly Ma
(NEO/NORE, Incoming Exchanges)
University of Alberta
J. Antonio Lee
Local Exchange Officers (LEOs) and Social Committee Leads (SCLs):
These dedicated individuals are the first point-of-contact for both Canadian medical students and international students placed in Canada.
Please access the list of LEOs and SCLs at each medical school here. (last updated: October 2015)
"How does the program work?"
First, understand how the program works. There are two streams to the program: the clinical/professional stream, and the research stream. The exchange program also takes the form of either unilateral or bilateral. Unilateral exchange is when the Canadian student goes abroad to another country to take part in the program; in a bilateral exchange, a Canadian student goes abroad to another country and another student from the same country comes to Canada some time during the same exchange season.
This season, CFMS-Canada has exchange agreements with 47 different countries and regions (see chart below). Some countries participate in both clinical and research exchange program, while others choose to only participate in one of the two.
|Clinical/professional placement (SCOPE)||Research placement (SCORE)|
According to the exchange agreement, the national medical student organization in each of the countries above is responsible for organizing and providing a clinical or research placement to Canadian students when they arrive in their country. Under the auspices of IFMSA, there are minimum standards that must be upheld by each host country. While CFMS has little control over the exchange quality or experience in every single country, city, hospital, and department, we collect and rely on student feedback to continuously provide Canadian students only with the exchange opportunities to places with the most reliable track record.
"How do I apply?"
Application to the IFMSA-CFMS International Exchange Program is a three-step process. The following flowchart breaks down the process for participating in the program:
Step 1: Country Match Application
The very first step involves applying for a country or a region (or in the IFMSA lingo, the NMO). Refer to the list of NMOs in the above chart.
After you have formed a rough list of potential NMOs that you would like to visit as part of the exchange program, consult the NMO Matrix.
Access the NMO Matrix here: NMO Matrix
The NMO Matrix is the master datasheet which breaks down the available exchanges by country/region, month availability specifically for Canadian students, stream, and direction. Importantly, for each country/region, the NMO Matrix outlines restrictions (if any) and has links to the Exchange Conditions. Exchange Conditions contain important information about participating cities, hospitals and disciplines (if clinical placement), projects (if research placement), language requirements, visa requirements, and required application materials for Step 3.
After referring to the NMO Matrix, complete Step 1 by submitting the Country Match Application. You can rank your preferred countries or regions on the Country Match Application.
It is each applicant's responsibility to ensure that they meet all the requirements for exchange and entry into the destination country.
Step 2: Commitment Package
After completing Step 1, your application will be entered into a lottery system where applicants will be randomly selected to fill the 170 available placements. The formula takes into account the population size, the number of applicants, and the number of spots available for international students for each medical school. Efforts will be made to accommodate the top preferences of the applicants. On November 2nd, the results of the first iteration of Country Match will be announced. Successfully matched applicants will be asked to submit the Commitment Package to their respective LEOs within 7 days of iteration.
The Commitment Package consists of signed forms as well as an online payment. Its submission acknowledges that the applicant agrees to the terms of the exchange program and accepts the matched country as their country of destination.
Second iteration for unmatched applicants will occur if enough placements are left unfulfilled by the matched applicants from the first iteration.
Step 3: City Match Application
After submitting the Commitment Package, it is time to complete the City Match Application (in IFMSA lingo, the AF). Each applicant is required to collect and submit all required documents, as laid out in the Exchange Conditions, in an online portal, and to select the desired exchange period. It must be a four-week period starting at the beginning of the month. Check the NMO Matrix and the Exchange Conditions of your desired country to see which summer months, various cities, universities, and hospitals are available.
For clinical placements, this is the opportunity to rank your desired city and discipline. For research placements, this is the opportunity to rank your desired research project. To maximize the chance of matching to your preferred city, discipline, or project, it is recommended that the applicant submit the City Match Application as soon as possible. Remember -- you are competing against other medical students around the world for the same city or project.
Placement match for dates, city, and project will occur for each applicant individually between February and May, depending on each applicant's desired exchange dates and the efficiency of the destination country. If you haven't already, this would be a good time to apply for a visa and receive travel vaccines. Once you have received the final placement confirmation from the destination country (in the IFMSA lingo, the Card of Acceptance), go ahead and book your flights.
Your medical school will provide pre-departure training to you before your departure, so that you are adequately prepared for potential ethical, cultural, logistical, and security challenges.
Enjoy your placement! Be open-minded and flexible, be prepared to run into logistical challenges at least in the first few days, and push yourself to take initiatives. The more effort and enthusiasm you put into the placement, the more you will get out of this experience in return -- we promise you!
After returning from the placement, you will be asked to complete the program evaluation as a way to improve the program for future program participants.
Country Match Application
To apply, you must use the online application form for Step 1.
[The deadline for submission was October 26th, 2015 at 11:59pm EST. Applications are now being processed.]
No exceptions will be made for late applications. Please give yourself ample time to understand the structure of the program and complete the application.
Please note: Due to the large volume of applications, only successful applicants will be notified. Applicants will be notified by the end of 2015. It is the applicant's responsibility to ensure they meet all the requirements for exchange and entry into the destination country.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Please access the FAQs here.
"I was able to finish a complete mini-project from start to end (with statistical analysis and conclusions). What helped me was that I have had good experience in laboratory techniques before and so I did not require much training. I feel like I was able to achieve more than I expected in one month." (Heidelberg, Germany)
"The quality of teaching was good. The professor and my labmates were very patient with me, especially considering I do not speak Spanish and nearly everyone there does not speak English... The social program in this exchange was very good and the Mexican people are in general extremely hospitable." (Tepic, Mexico)
"Good. People were very willing to teach. If you're not learning enough then go ask someone to teach you and they will say yes." (Cape Coast, Ghana)
"Teaching was really well done considering the fact that I didn't speak Japanese. The medical students and doctors were so nice and translated for me when they could and did their best. I couldn't have asked for more in my position." (Osaka, Japan)
"The preceptor I was assigned to did zero teaching. Rather, he passed me along to his team... Nonetheless I was still able to make use of my time there by networking with other medical students and joining their teaching sessions, and also networking with physicians that I came in contact with. Because I sought opportunity rather than wait for others to organize my learning, I was still able to benefit from this experience and look upon it fondly. I met some great people, saw interesting cases, and learned a lot!" (Dubai, UAE)
"Excellent. I followed residents and attended morning report meetings. I was also allowed to follow cases I was interested in and to alternate between different internal medicine sub-specialities that I was interested in." (Amman, Jordan)
"Some of the doctors were really willing to teach and others had no interest... By taking initiative, I was able to coordinate schedules with doctors who spoke English and were willing to teach." (Larissa, Greece)
"I thought the teaching at the hospital and especially the vascular surgery department is very well developed. The head of the department, who is also the vice director of the hospital, is very good in teaching and making sure I understood everything." (Changsha, China)
"Teaching was really good. The IM team integrated me into their group and provided with constant teaching (morning rounds, discussion on patients, etc). They were very open to show me and teach me everyday." (Santiago, Chile)