We are often told to get our foot in the door. Yet, for most of us, finding the door is our greatest challenge. In fact, most foreign nationals find this to be true. Case in point, I am originally from Sierra Leone, West Africa. I completed medical training in Russia, and matriculated to the United States. Now a freelancer, I provide a full range of Regulatory Medical Writing and Project Management Services. I also help individuals make informed choices about their careers.
When I immigrated to the US, I was clueless as to how to develop a career network. How do you start a network when you have zero connections? I took the initiative and went to the very source, the place where I wanted to start my career. With just a few questions in mind, I met with the director of admissions at The University of Pennsylvania, Ms. Gaye Sheffler. I inquired about transferring credits from abroad, especially for the basic sciences. Apparently, at the time, Penn did not accept credit transfers.
With limited knowledge back then, the only other option I knew of was to take the Medical Licensing Exams (now known as USMLE). The process is grueling and expensive. However, passing the exams is not the greatest challenge.
Securing residency is the ultimate challenge.
Some have waited for years without acceptance into a residency program. Furthermore, those who get accepted have to come to terms with the 120 hours workweek, for salaries less than some 40-hour work week positions. Some of these positions do not require a college degree. The more I thought about it, the more it became evident that I had to re-think my career goals.
After talking things out with Ms. Sheffler, she showed me a handbook I didn’t know existed. It had a list of careers in the healthcare profession. Something similar to what is shown here http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/home.htm.
How I wish I knew about this handbook during my early months in the US. It would have saved me time and money. Not all was lost though. Ms. Sheffler turned out to be my first “door opener”. She told me about Dr. Patrick Storey, Professor Emeritus of Medicine.
The following is an excerpt from the original email I wrote to Dr. Storey:
Dear Dr. Storey,…….
I am a Foreign Medical Graduate who sought admission to the school of Medicine with the hope of getting credit for the years I have already spent in a Foreign Medical School. I was flabbergasted to find out I am still required to establish an academic status in the US before taking the MCAT, then go through medical school……..
After explaining to the Director of Admission that spending 9-10 years to get a US medical degree is too much of a sacrifice, and that I am willing to settle for a lesser profession, she recommended I talk to you. Currently, my goal is to get a satisfying job in the healthcare profession, even if it means taking additional courses for a few months or years………Areas of interest include, but not limited to, Gerontology, Pediatrics, Public Health, Administration, Medical Writing and Legal Medicine. I certainly appreciate suggestions you may have, and I eagerly look forward to hearing from you……
This email letter landed me a face-to-face informational meeting with Dr. Storey. Some lessons to pass on: Take the initiative, you have nothing to lose. Get the facts, go to the source. Be open-minded; explore other career options that fit your lifestyle. Be humble as you look for opportunities to build your network. Research the company and people you want to work for; follow them on LinkedIn. Request an informational meeting.
In my next post, I’ll discuss key points from the email above. I’ll also share how one door led to several other doors. Hopefully, you (or someone you know) will get to your destination faster.
Happy Job Hunting,
Christiana W. Davis, MD
Owner, Consult To Aspire