Living abroad alone is never easy. Neither are the physical and mental demands of becoming a new intern. For international medical graduates, there are also added pressures. At times, you feel like you must try “extra hard” to prove yourself, that you are worthy of this opportunity. After a long day at work, you go home to find yourself alone, and it can be lonely. You need someone with whom you can share your silly joke, your bad days, your good days, or just to be there. People who can be your family and your home. When interviewing for residency positions, apart from getting to know the program, you hope that you will find such people in your future co-residents. However, especially with the current Zoom interview process, you can’t know for sure until you really start the journey.
“You are a bright, grown-up girl now, almost 15-years old. You must take ownership of yourself and your body and look after your physical, mental, and emotional health. Eating healthy food, making healthier choices, exercising even if just for 30 minutes, and reaching out to the therapist again will go a long, long way.” This is the kind of advice I was giving my teenage patient last week during continuity clinic, and the kind of advice I am sure you give out too, no matter what specialty you are in. However, sometimes it feels hypocritical. As a resident physician, I wonder how many times a week do you give advice to your patients that perhaps also applies to you?
I grew up in a modest family in rural India, watching people in the underprivileged strata of the society suffer from diseases that could have been easily treated if they had access to state-of-the-art healthcare. Experiencing the devastating consequences of health issues firsthand left an indelible mark in my mind. That lasting impression and a lifelong fascination with science is what led to my passion and ambition for medicine.
As I sit in a dear friend’s apartment in New York, basking in the nothingness of vacation, I realize that the time left in the intern year of my Internal Medicine training can no longer be measured in months. It has been quite the year and I am part trepid, part excited to transition into a senior role in the next academic year.
This is not the first of such transitions for me, and neither was Match Day 2018 my first dance with the NRMP. I first moved to the United States in 2016 to begin an Anatomic Pathology/Clinical Pathology (AP/CP) residency. I remember putting all I owned into two travel bags – more like haphazardly stuffing the bags – and getting on the long-haul flight to Chicago, to begin the next phase of my seemingly never-ending medical training. I was excited and grateful to be part of the next group of exchange visitor physicians.
Have you ever done something for the first time and had great anxiety about doing it? If your answer is yes, we are in the same boat.
When I started my residency training as a first-year psychiatry resident, I had many fears and worries. Imagine a doctor who has to work in another country, use English as her second language, and see patients in a diverse population. I had fear that my patients wouldn’t be able to understand my accent; fear of judgment from my colleagues; and fear of making mistakes. The working environment in the United States is far different from Thailand. I used to write paper chart back in my country, but now I have to type everything to the Electronic Medical Record (EMR). In Thailand we have Universal Health Care Coverage, unlike the healthcare system in the United States, where everyone has insurance.