We’ve lost so many lives over the past two years. As a physician working at a hospital since the beginning of it, I have witnessed the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic. This global crisis has resulted in worldwide lockdowns, the economic collapse of countries, and universally rising mortality and morbidity. Although the first wave of the pandemic came with the most uncertainty, it was the second wave that resulted in the most personally disruptive time of my life. It brought a multitude of issues to my home country, India. Due to a lack of resources, the healthcare system there collapsed under the pressures of the second wave.
It was 2:00 AM at Beirut-Rafic Hariri International Airport, moments before a long trip to the United States. I was drinking coffee and trying desperately to distract myself. At the time, I was 30 years old, recently engaged, and a fresh graduate in pulmonary and critical care. I was on my way to begin a U.S. graduate medical education program on a J-1 visa for subspecialty training in neurocritical care.
I am a pediatric intensivist, and I am from Nigeria. As an intensivist in the US, I offer multi-disciplinary care to children who are critically ill, in an ICU environment. Our team offers various forms of support for any organ-system failure ranging from tracheal intubation/mechanical ventilation to extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO). However, in Nigeria and most other low and middle income (LMIC) countries, children who are critically ill are not cared for in an ICU environment. Most of the hospitals in these resource-limited settings lack the capacity and resources to intubate and mechanically ventilate children who are in respiratory failure from varied causes. As you read this blog, if a child goes to any of the major tertiary pediatric institutions in these regions, in respiratory failure or has any major organ-systems dysfunction, the fate of that child is grim. There are millions of such children, even at this moment.
My Name is Mazin Alhamdani. I am a native of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Ever since I was in medical school, I dreamt about pursuing post graduate medical training in the United States. I wanted this not only for the outstanding medical training, but also for the integrated training structure, and emphasis on ethics and professionalism. I studied for my USMLE exams while working as a resident in Saudi Arabia. I obtained good scores and began applying to residency programs. I was lucky enough to be accepted at a pediatric residency program in New York City, the “Big Apple.”
“Hello! Who are you, where do you come from?” They asked with their hand offered forward. I was starting my fellowship at the Kleinert Hand Institute.
I was always puzzled when I was asked this question. I was a visible minority even back in my hometown, although I was born there. What do they want to know? Where I am originally from? Where I was born and grew up? Where I went for university, or the program I graduated from?