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.
It is a common refrain that “things get better.” I now strongly believe that is true, but I didn’t always. I went through many ups and downs on my journey in medicine, such as dealing with homesickness, weathering professional and personal hardships, and trying to make good impressions and forge meaningful connections as an introvert. I navigated all of this before I understood that of course things will always, eventually get better—because when you are at your lowest, there is only one way to go: up.
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.
I am Sandipan Shringi, MD, a final-year resident in Internal Medicine at Saint Vincent Hospital in Worcester, Massachusetts. I am originally from a small town in India. My path towards medical practice began when I was 16 years old. As you will learn, my journey as a physician began dangerously and has taken unexpected paths.