06/10/2013 11:08 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

I Graduated From a Foreign Medical School With $350,000 in Student Loans

Huffington Post Reader Question

Dear Steve,

I went to school outside of the country and obtained the equivalent of an MD degree. Without a residency position I have little hope of ever making enough money to repay the 350,000 debt in the way it was intended to be repaid.

What professional should I look for to help me sort out my options? Each loan company has someone but they seem only concerned about how to handle their loan. I need someone to look at the big picture and do what is best for me.


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Dear Gail,

I sense a fatal flaw in your plans. When you started this journey what was the plan behind finishing your education with your residency with your foreign degree? Was that ever thought of or discussed?

There are some resources for you to look in to. For example, the American College of Physicians has a guide that seems to be on point for your situation. See the International Medical Graduate's Guide to US Medicine & Residency Training. You should also contact the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG) for help and advice on U.S. residency programs.

Once you get a ECFMG certificate you can then apply for one of 9,000 programs that are open. To identify open programs you can use the American Medical Association Graduate Medical Education Directory.

Other logical options would be to ask your medical school for suggestions and advice on where you could complete your residency, even if you have to do that not in the U.S.

As far as the student loans go, the reality with any field of student and dealing with the student loans is you only make the maximum amount of money, potentially, when you complete the program and get the necessary degree, training, and/or qualifications. The majority of people with student loans never do. They have the debt but never completed their degree.

In your case, until you do the hard work to complete the residency you will be stuck with overwhelming student loan debt that may just be impossible for you to pay.

Your fist efforts should be to secure ECFMG certification and that should open doors to one of the thousands of open programs.

At the same time you should also read my guide on handling student loans you can't afford. Your options are dependent on if these are U.S. based loans and if they are federal or private student loans.

If you can get properly recognized and finish your training in the U.S. there are programs that will eliminate your federal student loans after some years of public service or if you decide to work in disadvantaged areas. But let's not get too far ahead of ourselves and let's deal with this residency issue first.

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