By Dr. Kevin Carroll II
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.
The Exchange Visitor Program has opened so many opportunities for me. My initial year of sponsorship has been an exciting experience. I have enjoyed being exposed to the many cultures within the United States. I shared vibrant and colorful cross-cultural experiences (of course being socially distanced) with so many different people. We shared cultural viewpoints, food, experiences and created lifelong bonds, which has been one of the most beneficial experiences of this entire program. The friendships I created are precious. The people that I have met will be my friends for life. Meeting the patients and sharing so much together has been a rewarding experience.
Spending this last year in residency training in Atlanta, a natural multicultural zone, has blessed me with the opportunity to meet many people from the Caribbean and treat many Caribbean patients. The ability to relate to the patient from a familiar cultural perspective, understand what they are going through and what they are saying, really helps the patient progress in their care. Having trained in The Bahamas and Jamaica, I have had situations where I interacted with patients of Jamaican descent. For instance, I recall one time when a physician colleague and friend contacted me for advice about one such patient. My colleague did not understand the patient’s dialect, or the patient’s religious perspective, both of which were impactful in that patient’s decisions on their medical care. I was able to explain to the provider what the patient was communicating and we were able to progress the patient’s care. The team appreciated how my cultural background allowed for a greater understanding of the patient’s needs and contributed to improving their health outcomes.
The Exchange Visitor Program allows for cultural diversity and inclusion in a time when that is such a precious commodity. The program that I have had the pleasure of training in this year was multicultural, with residents hailing from all different parts of the world. This truly reflected on patient care. There were moments where patients were surprised and grateful to see a physician with whom they could relate and who could understand them from a language or cultural perspective. In reflection, despite battling a pandemic over this past year, the relationships that I built with colleagues from all different avenues of life have truly proven to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I am eternally grateful to the ECFMG for the opportunities given to me and I will continue to positively impact patient care during my time in the USA.