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.
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.
As I stepped out of my plane in Minneapolis, Minnesota, I had multiple things running through my mind. Relief was the first thing that came to me. The whole process of joining my U.S. training program had been marred with painful uncertainty due to the pandemic, and yet now I was here. The airport was very quiet that day. It was a clear reflection of how COVID-19 was impacting life in the United States. The road to the hotel where I’d stay for the next few days was lined with empty sidewalks and closed stores.