(*Some of the immigrant physicians featured in these stories have chosen to remain anonymous because of fear of reprisal from the medical system if they speak out publicly)
I completed my primary medical education (Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery: M.B; B.S.) in India. I was selected for the public university affiliated medical school through the common pre-medical examination (similar to MCAT). The school is well recognized by WHO and listed in World Directory of Medical Schools.
It took me 5 years to complete the program (including pre-clinical and clinical subjects), followed by 1 year mandatory Internship (clinical rotations) in different clinical specialities. Later, I completed a 3 year postgraduate training in the specialty of general surgery. I pursued laparoscopic surgery (minimal invasive surgery) training at the best institutes of India (AIIMS). Further, I underwent training in cancer surgery (Onco-Surgery) for 1 year at one of the best cancer care centers in Northern India.
India has a mixed healthcare system including both private and public. I worked at different private hospitals (NationalAccreditation Board for Hospitals: NABH accredited) after my residency as a clinical associate and general surgeon. I also worked as an on-call surgeon for various small surgical centers in rural areas. I spent about 8 years practicing in the surgical field in India, performing hundreds of elective and emergency surgeries independently as well under supervision.
My wife is a Canadian citizen and we had been in relationship for a few years before our marriage. She left Canada and joined me in India for about 10 years.
I started planning to move to United Kingdom for better career opportunities and began preparing for the UK surgical examinations, but we decided instead to move to Canada because we thought that Canada would have similar career options and because my wife is a Canadian and my kids have Canadian citizenship.
We arrived in Canada in 2017.
Since I came to Canada, I kept trying to continue my career in the field of general surgery but I could never get a chance to work at a hospital or clinic. I did not take the examinations and didn’t apply for a residency as I wanted to go the Practice Ready Assessment (PRA) route.
I passed Membership of the Royal College of Surgeons, UK (MRCS) examination, but I found out later that it doesn’t count in Canada and I couldn’t go to the UK because it would mean leaving my family behind in Canada.
After coming to Canada, for the first year I kept trying to convince my wife to move back to India but it never happened. I became more confused about my career options.
Eventually, I realized that passing the Medical Council of Canada (MCC) exams do not further career progression for the majority of IMGs. Passing the MCCQE1 and NACOSCE does not allow you to compete for 90% of residency programs even though you have proven you meet the Canadian standard and are qualified to work as a resident physician. I have met many IMGs, who have spent thousands of dollars for these examinations and have never worked as doctors in Canada.
Moreover, it’s almost impossible for an IMG to get into a surgical residency position in Canada.
IMGs come to Canada with kids and they usually have limited financial resources and unlimited responsibilities towards their families as well. Canadian Medical Graduates (CMGs) are never asked to waste their money, time or energy this way. Despite being born in Canada they are also not asked to work in rural communities in their home country when this is expected of IMGs.
If I write the Canadian examinations in this discriminatory environment today, then I believe I would be supporting this system of injustice.
Still, I’m ready for any assessment or examination, if it’s fair, equitable and evaluates my training and skills; in order to to help me get back into my profession.
Either IMGs should be completely banned entry into Canada by the authorities or they should have 100% access to equal opportunities in education or jobs through the same types of examinations or assessment methods.
My family, parents, friends, and relatives always wonder why I’m not working as a doctor. I have distanced myself from many old friends and colleagues because I don’t know what to tell them. They would never believe what kind of jobs I have done in Canada.
I feel alone, isolated, neglected and lost. I got a very early unwanted retirement in Canada. Being worthless is a bigger curse than anything else.
I don’t know what I’m doing today, as I’m always looking for jobs in healthcare.
My family could have been in better financial situation if I’d had a stable career as a doctor. I never wished to be a millionaire, but I dreamt of a respectful life as a medical doctor.
I cannot start again and study medicine from zero as it’s a more complex and expensive process going back to school again in Canada.
Someone suggested I move to the US or the UK for better work opportunities, but I can’t leave my wife and kids.
I even planned to return and work in India for few months, but I haven’t been able to do this for 2 years because of the pandemic.
Surprisingly, none of the Canadian hospitals allowed IMGs like me to work with Canadian patients during this pandemic and they have no plans to address shortages of staff/ doctors in future.
I was personally contacted by many Canadian patients through my relatives for health issues, as many of the clinics were closed during pandemic situations, but I didn’t know how to help them adequately.
All the medical books are the same throughout the world and despite the difference of colors, cultures, religions and ethnicities; all the patients are treated similarly and respectfully all over the world. From west to east, all human beings have similar body organs and diseases. Appendix is at same location in all races and surgical steps of its removal are similar too.
If the immigrant patients are not treated differently in Canadian hospitals, then why are immigrant doctors considered inferior or different in Canada?
Hope the discrimination ends soon!