Today’s interview highlights a mother I admire.She has the grit and resilience of a knight. I met her when she was 6 weeks post-partum and came down to Kentucky to learn with me! I remember thinking to myself “who leaves a newborn baby to pursue an unpaid clinical observership”.
She quickly reminded me that babies are made by two individuals who should share the parenting responsibility equally. She also inspired me in that she loved medicine so much she was willing to make such a huge sacrifice of time for a US Letter of Recommendation. Of course, her baby was taken care of, she pumped and went home on the weekends to feed him. Another key point in her journey is the gap she had from the year she graduated medical school to the year she matched.
She graduated 8 years prior to matching into a renowned Tennessee residency program in 2017! But during this time she remained in practice in her home country and even after migrating to the States continued to pursue relevant (observerships) and relatively irrelevant opportunities (odd jobs) in the field of medicine.
We will jump right into the Q& A.
Dr. Lum: Please tell us a bit about yourself.
Dr. New Mom: I am married, a mother of two and trained as a physician in Cameroon. I have always loved to dedicate my life to helping other people and I have been able to obtain this through my profession. I had no initial plans of moving to the US until I met my husband and decided to immigrate in 2012.
Dr. Lum: What specialty are you in?
Dr. New Mom: Internal Medicine
Dr. Lum: What is your current level of training? If no longer in training, where/what do you currently practice?
Dr. New Mom: I am a PGY-1 and currently undertaking an online MPH as well.
Dr. Lum: Where did you attend medical school?
Dr. New Mom: Faculty of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences in Yaounde, Cameroon (formerly called CUSS)
Dr. Lum: What year did you graduate from medical school?
Dr. New Mom: 2009
Dr. Lum: When did you take USMLE step 1?
Dr. New Mom: 2015
Dr. Lum: That is a wide gap, Dr. New Mom. From 2009 to 2015! What score did you obtain on step 1?
Dr. New Mom: 220
Dr. Lum: What studying technique worked best for you?
Dr. New Mom: Reading the first aid and doing lots of questions
Dr. Lum: When did you take USMLE step 2?
Dr. New Mom: Both clinical knowledge and skills in 2016. I was elated to pass the CS on the first attempt
Dr. Lum: What studying techniques do you attribute to your success on step 2?
Dr. New Mom: For step 2 CK – reading and doing questions. If there was topic I did not really master I will go into the textbook to study in greater detail.
Dr. Lum: How about step 3?
Dr. New Mom: I have not taken it yet. I plan on doing it this year.
Dr. Lum: Did you take either one of these tests more than once?
Dr. New Mom: No
Dr. Lum: What study techniques/resources/question banks/books do you attribute to your success on the USMLE?
Dr. New Mom: First AID and UWORLD I think are indispensable for your success. If I needed to fully understand a point I will dive into just that section in the Kaplan books. I did not read all of the Kaplan books. Another resource which was really relevant was PATHOMA. I knew that to pass the test I need to master the 3 Ps: Pathology, Physiology, and Pharmacology.
Dr. Lum: Did you participate in clinical rotations at any US hospital prior to match day? Was this helpful to your match process? If so, please explain.
Dr. New Mom: I did not do any clinical rotations in the US.
Dr. Lum: Did you participate in research or an observership at any US hospital? Can you share what you learned from this experience? Was it beneficial to how you matched?
Dr. New Mom: Yes I did four clinical observerships: 3 outpatients and one inpatient. I did learn how to communicate better with patients, as I had to speak slower and clearer to be understood. I had a very knowledgeable and engaging preceptor and so she walked me through the daily routine in an inpatient setting. This really came in handy during my residency as I was not a complete stranger to the schedule. Also, I had the opportunity to learn more about different appliances in the hospital, especially in the Intensive Care Unit. There was just so much to learn in a short period. It was an amazing opportunity to be able to navigate and learn more about electronic medical records which were completely new to me. It was undoubtedly very helpful during the match process, not only because I acquired personal skills and experience, but more so in ascertaining my clinical competencies given that I was an FMG, who trained out of the US clinical system. I think it went a long way to show the programs that I was motivated to learn and I had hands-on experience in a US clinical setting.
Dr. Lum: Looking back at the journey to get to where you are at, what advice would you give to yourself looking back at the process? What is your mantra for your success thus far?
Dr. New Mom: To keep up the hard work and to persevere through any obstacles that may arise. If others can make it, I can, but not everyone goes through the same path. Never be discouraged when people say you can’t because you can. Learn from the mistakes or the success of others, and choose your path. My mantra is to never give up no matter the challenge because at the end of that turbulent journey you will be rewarded with success. Above all put your trust in God.
Dr. Lum: Thank you so much for that. One last thing, did you need a visa (F1, H1B, J1 or B1/B2) for any parts of your training or time in the USA, can you please share important tips on the process?
Dr. New Mom: Sorry I did not need a visa.
Dr. Nina Lum is a motivational speaker, blogger and author. In 2015 she graduated from a Family Medicine residency where she served as the chief resident. Today she practices hospital medicine and is also a part time hospital administrator… and enjoys every bit of it. When not working, she is coaching other people on how to navigate the ups and downs of their medical career goals. Whether a foreign medical graduate, like she once was, or a millennial seeking coaching, she is here to help you achieve your personal aspirations.
Check out her website at: DrNinaLum.com