“Is it true that there is an injection for HIV now?”
This is a common question many patients have asked me at the outpatient clinic over the past six months. It felt like a dream come true for most of my patients who had been taking daily medications since their diagnosis. To me as well, it was a remarkable advancement in the treatment of this disease, which has defined much of my J-1 physician training experience thus far.
Since I was a young child, my father taught me to dream. That is how a young me, with no medical background or exposure to the healthcare profession, dreamed of becoming a provider one day. I graduated from B.J. Medical College, which is affiliated with one of the largest hospitals in Asia, Civil Hospital, Ahmedabad. I was introduced to research and the science behind it during my practice, and it was then that my dream expanded: I dreamed of one day becoming a physician-scientist. The idea of juggling caring for patients, where every patient poses a new question for science, and working in the lab to discover answers to those questions, sent an adrenaline rush to my system. It was then that I decided to pursue the dream of furthering my medical education in the United States, due to its large investment in the research sciences.
When a 33-year-old lies unconscious in front of you, it’s never a good sign. This 33-year-old, female patient was found unresponsive by her family. Despite trying medications for possible reversible causes, she did not wake up. She turned out to be an unfortunate case of catastrophic stroke. By the time I saw her, she had fixed, dilated pupils, no reflexes, and no movements. She was brought to the ICU to do more, only to realize there was nothing more available for her. She was already on a ventilator and the maximum doses of four pressors, which were barely able to keep her BP to 40 systolic. She eventually succumbed to her disease.
This October, I was selected to be one of less than 10 ECFMG-sponsored J-1 physicians to attend a three-day leadership development seminar held in Washington, D.C., by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. The seminar I attended was one of a series of eight planned in 2022 and 2023 that make up the BridgeUSA Leadership Development Program. According to its website, the program will host up to 200 total BridgeUSA participants and intends to “promote mutual understanding and lasting partnerships between emerging leaders from foreign countries and the United States,” give its attendees a chance to “collaborate and share ideas, approaches, and strategies to develop solutions to local and global challenges,” and create “a global network of like-minded professionals committed to creating positive change in their workplaces and communities.”
It was November, and I was in the second year of my cardiology fellowship when I received a phone call from my brother in Saudi Arabia. It was an odd time for him to call me. I picked up and listened to his frantic voice: “Khalid, our mother had a cardiac arrest. She is in ER! Intubated! Going to ICU. I will call you back… I have to go…I will call you back!” I was at my apartment in Ohio, thousands of miles away, as my whole life was turning upside down. After about 15-20 long minutes, I spoke with my brother again: “Khalid, she just passed away!” Just like that, she was gone.