skip to main content

Listen

Read

Watch

Schedules

Programs

Events

Give

Account

Donation Heart Ribbon

Iraqi Refugee Doctor In San Diego Learns Whether She’ll Practice Medicine Again (Video)

Refugee Doctors Learns Whether She'll Practice Medicine Again

Above: Najwan Al Ani has practiced medicine before -- in war-torn Iraq. Foreign-trained doctors must spend several years and thousands of dollars to get into the field they left behind. Above, Al Ani finds out if she'll get to be a doctor in the United States.

Special Feature Speak City Heights

Speak City Heights is a media collaborative aimed at amplifying the voices of residents in one of San Diego’s most diverse neighborhoods. (Read more)

Aired 3/18/14 on KPBS News.

Monday morning was a nail-biter for medical students across the nation. It marked the beginning of Match Week, when soon-to-be doctors find out whether they got into residency programs.

Monday morning was a nail-biter for medical students across the nation. It marked the beginning of Match Week, when soon-to-be doctors find out whether they got into residency programs.

In September, we introduced you to one of those hopefuls: Najwan Al Ani of El Cajon. Unlike many of her peers, she's practiced medicine before — in war-torn Iraq and Jordan.

Foreign-trained doctors must spend several years and thousands of dollars to get into the field they left behind.

As we previously reported:

Despite a call for more doctors and nurses to help providers keep pace with the Affordable Care Act, foreign-trained doctors must redo a significant portion of their training before becoming full-fledged doctors again in the United States. They have to pass three American licensing exams and compete for residency positions with fresh-faced medical school graduates — a process that often takes six years or more.

Al Ani’s experience treating shrapnel wounds and delivering babies in a war zone doesn’t move her toward the front of the line.

“Sometimes we faced lack of electricity while we were working,” Al Ani said of her two years working at a Baghdad hospital. “Especially for me, I faced a case of delivery without any electricity. I need just single flashlight to make this mom pass the delivery safely for her and her baby.”

International Rescue Committee

Najwan Al Ani (center right) and the International Rescue Committee staff members who helped her navigate the medical residency match process celebrate Al Ani's acceptance email on March 17, 2014.

Al Ani spent close to $10,000 and more than three years working with job counselors at the International Rescue Committee to get where she is now. Monday morning she learned she's been accepted into a medical residency program. Friday she'll find out where. She applied to Kaiser San Diego, Family Health Centers of San Diego (I wrote about their rare clinic-based residency program here), and a program in Ohio.

"I don't mind (going) anywhere. I loved all the programs that I applied to," Al Ani said. "I'm so excited to restart my career, so that's the big thing."

Nearly 8,000 foreign-trained doctors applied for residency spots last match season. Less than half were accepted into programs, according to the National Resident Match Program. Overall, there were more than 34,000 graduates vying for positions.

Update: Al Ani got the details of her assignment Friday. She'll be the first medical resident in a new program at Family Health Centers of San Diego. Program representatives learned of Al Ani's quest to become a U.S. doctor through an earlier KPBS story.

We've upgraded to a better commenting experience!
Log in with your social profile or create a Disqus account.

Please stay on topic and be as concise as possible. Leaving a comment means you agree to our Community Discussion Rules. We like civilized discourse. We don't like spam, lying, profanity, harassment or personal attacks.

comments powered by Disqus