As I stepped out of my plane in Minneapolis, Minnesota, I had multiple things running through my mind. Relief was the first thing that came to me. The whole process of joining my U.S. training program had been marred with painful uncertainty due to the pandemic, and yet now I was here. The airport was very quiet that day. It was a clear reflection of how COVID-19 was impacting life in the United States. The road to the hotel where I’d stay for the next few days was lined with empty sidewalks and closed stores.
I’m sitting in my residency library on a gloomy spring afternoon during my trauma surgery rotation. I stare out the window at the shedding cherry blossom trees, and I reflect on how the last ten months flew by. As I’m waiting for a trauma alert to be paged out, another chest tube, another bedside thoracotomy, I think back to where I was exactly one year ago today. I was packing up my bags in Ireland, prepared to move across the pond to a new country, ready for my first full-time clinical training experience and to start a new life. Little did I know how much I would learn in medicine, and in life.
I am a proud Bahamian native and a fully Caribbean-trained international medical graduate. I am also a newly matched categorical general surgery resident. Achieving my dream of matching to a general surgery residency was not an easy feat. Prior to joining my current program, I had no U.S. clinical experience. After being recognized for some accomplishments in a surgical department in my home country and acquiring my Membership of The Royal College of Surgeons, I decided to pursue my goal of training in the United States. I worried that my prior achievements would not be enough. I believed in myself, so I took some risks and I networked extremely hard. After spending a preliminary year in general surgery at a program located in Georgia, I accomplished my dream. My story is proof that determination makes it possible; to those who have doubts, don’t give up! My journey to this point has been difficult and I am so grateful to the Exchange Visitor Program for making this opportunity a possibility.
Living the “American Dream” was a phrase I heard a lot while growing up because many of my relatives were settled in the USA. During medical school, I had made up my mind to pursue psychiatry as a preferred specialty. After making a thorough comparison of psychiatry training in Pakistan, the United Kingdom, and the USA, I decided to aim for training in the United States.