By Dr. Svatava Merkle, Dr. Ayse Irem Sonmez, Dr. Tolulope Odebunmi, and Dr. Mats Steffi Jennifer Masilamani
We are a group of four International Medical Graduates (IMGs) training at the University of Minnesota School of Medicine: Dr. Svatava Merkle, a PGY-3 from the Czech Republic specializing in pediatrics; Dr. Ayse Irem Sonmez, a PGY-3 from Turkey specializing in psychiatry; Dr. Toulope Odebunmi, a PGY-4 from Nigeria also specializing in psychiatry; and Dr. Mats Steffi Jennifer Masilamani, a PGY-4 from India specializing in pediatric cardiology.
By Ekaterine Piccola Training Program Liaison, Mount Sinai Health System
I first planted my tired feet on US soil in August, 2003. After 12 hours in the air, when I breathed in the humid and intriguingly unfamiliar air outside of Washington Dulles International Airport, I knew that I was in for an adventure of a lifetime. My country, Georgia, was far behind me.
I started out as a new J-1 exchange student at New York University (NYU) in September, 2003. I experienced a multitude of emotions – I simultaneously felt happy, privileged, overwhelmed, and anxious. I realized that I was on my own and for the first time, I had only myself to rely on. The first few weeks were a whirlwind as I was eagerly trying to find a place to live in New York City, navigate through the subway system (mainly figuring out the difference between uptown or downtown, and trying to hear announcements against the noise of a rapidly passing express train), register for all the correct classes for my graduate program, and comply with the J-1 visa requirements. Along the way, I made some new friends who are now friends for life. Also, the support I received from the international office was crucial to my survival and future success.
By Dr. Laura A Hanyok
Assistant Dean, Johns Hopkins Graduate Medical Education Office
Imagine being a new intern at Johns Hopkins. You have graduated from an international medical school and are eager to start your career as a physician by pursuing leading-edge graduate medical training in the United States. You are aware of the stresses of residency and are mindful of the need to prioritize your well-being during your years of training. Fortunately, you know that Johns Hopkins has taken a progressive approach to promoting clinician well-being in their training program. Over the next year you see these initiatives in action.
On orientation day, you hear a presentation from the leaders of the Graduate Medical Education (GME) office. They frankly discuss the challenges in residency training, including stressors you might encounter and the increased suicide risk that residents have compared to young adults who are not physicians. This helps to normalize your concerns. They also share information about the resources that the hospital and university provide, and ask you to think about what your support system will be while you are in training. As an international medical graduate, this piece particularly resonates with you, as you realize you may not have the same established support system as other colleagues who have more friends and family nearby.