Each journey in medicine is unique, but all are full of grit, strength, and motivation. I write this blog post in the hopes that you can derive inspiration during your experience as an international medical graduate. By no means is this an easy route, but it is incredibly worth it, and I would not have had it any other way.
Dear fellow international medical graduates (IMGs):
We, like our U.S.-graduate counterparts, are hardworking and highly resilient in our pursuit of residency. We are all excited yet daunted by the prospect of transitioning from medical school to internship, as this new phase brings increased responsibility and autonomy. We all rush to meet deadlines and gather stack upon stack of required paperwork to jump off the page and qualify for selection. However, IMGs often face unique obstacles that we must overcome in preparation for and as we matriculate in our residencies in the United States. For example, as a Lebanese applicant, I was faced with regular electricity outages, civil rights movements interrupting my normal workflow, and severe financial limitations due to the fastest rate of hyperinflation in modern history in my country. I had to embrace instability and uncertainty and always aim to thrive from within the chaos. I am certain that many of my fellow IMGs faced similar challenges in their efforts to begin residency in the United States. Especially in this time of the pandemic, we all dealt with some level of economic and political instability in our homelands, not to mention the multiple waves of quarantine, uncertainty, and fear. If you are going through this process now, I send you a message of strength: you will persevere.
Six months into my medical residency, I have grown more comfortable waking up earlier than usual and at colder temperatures. I have learned to embrace procedure and operate on a regularly irregular schedule. Today on my way to work, I watch the fog clear and feel my pulse synchronize with my pace.
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.
I’m sitting in my residency library on a gloomy spring afternoon during my trauma surgery rotation. I stare out the window at the shedding cherry blossom trees, and I reflect on how the last ten months flew by. As I’m waiting for a trauma alert to be paged out, another chest tube, another bedside thoracotomy, I think back to where I was exactly one year ago today. I was packing up my bags in Ireland, prepared to move across the pond to a new country, ready for my first full-time clinical training experience and to start a new life. Little did I know how much I would learn in medicine, and in life.