Help Immigrant Doctors Be Doctors

Training to become a doctor is hard. Becoming a doctor in the US, after a successful medical career in another country that’s been disrupted by dislocation, takes the challenge to a whole other level. Foreign-trained doctors seeking to practice in the US need to pass a multiyear series of tough exams, hone their English and rebuild professional networks, often while supporting families and with little-to-no access to student loans or other financial assistance programs. The result: trained and experienced immigrant doctors in the US most often end up in low-wage jobs, their talent and expertise wasted, at a time when many US communities face big doctor shortages.

Meet Val and Abdul, two exceptionally talented and motivated immigrant doctors, now in the U.S. and determined to make it back to their fields of medicine. Although their backgrounds are different, Val and Abdul have traveled similar paths in the US to get where they are now – which, in both cases, is very close to reaching the goal of returning to medicine:

     *  Both arrived in the US in 2014 – Val emigrating from Russia, and Abdul from 
        Somalia, arriving as a refugee fleeing war and persecution in his home country. 

     * Both had already excelled academically, earned medical degrees from top schools and gained
       invaluable experience as practicing physicians – ten years of practicing psychiatry for Val 
       and two years practicing general medicine for Abdul.

     * Since arriving in the US, both have worked in low-wage “survival jobs” while preparing for the
        extremely rigorous exams required to practice medicine in the U.S.  Both Val and Abdul
        have now passed all required steps and are positioned as very strong candidates for matching
        in medical residency. 

Both individually shouldered the expense of study courses and exam fees (many thousands of dollars) through earnings and personal debt, exhausting resources directly available to them.  They now each face an estimated $8,000 in fees to participate in the residency application process (aka “the match”) and to travel for interviews to the schools selecting them as potential residents.

In total, $16,000 will enable Val and Abdul to stay on track, completing the medical residency application process this year and likely beginning residency – and their US careers as doctors -- in 2019. 

Both Val and Abdul are intensely intelligent, hard-working professionals, with an enduring passion for medicine and for helping people. They have excelled at the hardest parts of becoming a US medical doctors, and have bright futures with decades of community medical service ahead of them. 

Your contribution is a vote of confidence for these two exceptional young people who have so much to give to their communities and to the field of medicine. Will you help Val and Abdul jump this final hurdle to becoming medical doctors in the U.S.?

More About This Campaign:

The sponsors of this campaign are Lisa Cooper and Marwan Sweedan, long-time volunteers helping to find ways for immigrant doctors to return to medicine. Lisa is the co-founder of Global Talent Idaho  (GTI), a non-profit program enabling skilled refugees and immigrants to reclaim professional careers in the U.S. Marwan was a trauma surgeon in his home country of Iraq before arriving in the U.S. as a refugee in 2008. In Boise, ID, Marwan has helped lead a group of immigrant doctors in loosely known as “GTI-Docs” as they work to rebuild medical careers in the U.S.

To date, two GTI Docs have successfully entered medical residency: Ali, who arrived in Idaho 10+ years ago from Iraq, is now in his second year a family medicine residency in Boise and Cristina, a hematologist trained in Italy, is now in her first year of residency in Pocatello. Abdul and Val are next in line to apply. Behind them is another group of 8-10 refugee and immigrant doctors in Boise, ID, diligently studying for their exams.  Beyond Boise, in cities all over the country, there are immigrant doctors struggling to find their way back into medicine.

Abdul, Val, Ali and Cristina represent thousands of other trained medical professionals who’ve arrived in the U.S. as refugees, or as other immigrants whose successful careers were interrupted by the need to relocate. Their success will inspire others and help build the pipeline of highly qualified and experience physicians in the U.S.

This campaign seeks to demonstrate that removing the financial barriers for qualified immigrant doctors leads to successful outcomes, and that it is a smart and beneficial societal investment. The total estimated cost for an immigrant doctor to relicense in the U.S. is $10,000-$30,000 over a one-to-three year period; we estimate $25,000 on average. This compares with the $250,000-$400,000 cost for a four-year medical school education for a new entrant to the medical profession. Both pathways lead candidates to medical residency as a next step. But whereas U.S. medical school students have access to financing through student loans, scholarships and other programs, immigrant doctors typically have no such access to financing, nor are they typically eligible for bank financing or any other type of loan. Our long-term goal with this campaign is establishing a permanent financing vehicle to remove the financial barriers for refugee and immigrant doctors as they work to rebuild medical careers in the U.S.

Abdul and Val have already self-financed the approximately $10,000 each required for study materials and exams to reach this stage. They’ve each exhausted their savings and maxed out their credit cards. The funds raised through this campaign will provide for the following expenses, explicitly involved with the residency matching process for each candidate:

  ERAS Application for 150 programs (Residency Matching)*

      ERAS registration token                                          $   120
      USMLE Transcript Fee                                              $      80
      NRMP Fees                                                                     $    200
      ERAS 150 program applications                        $3,600
      Travel to 5 interviews @ $800 each                 $4,000
      Total                                                                                    $8,000

     *Graduates of non-US medical schools are typically advised to apply to 100-200 residency programs,
      whereas US medical school graduates typically apply to fewer (10-50).

Funds raised through this campaign will be withdrawn by me, and will be distributed to cover  cover expenses related to the medical residency application process for Abdul and Val. The initial funds will be spent directly for the next step in early September: the residency match registration and application process, estimated to be $2500-$4000 each. In total, Abdul and Val will be able to use up to $8,000 each to support steps in the process.  Any excess funds raised will be dedicated to similar expenses for other refugee or immigrant doctors, and will be overseen by Lisa Cooper, Marwan Sweedan and the GTI Docs group.

We thank you deeply for your contribution.
  • E K 
    • $50 
    • 35 mos
  • Anonymous 
    • $50 
    • 37 mos
  • Cristina Gabutti  
    • $100 
    • 37 mos
  • Anonymous 
    • $50 
    • 37 mos
  • Emily Boerner 
    • $500 
    • 37 mos
See all

Fundraising team (2)

Lisa Cooper 
Raised $1,525 from 10 donations
Boise, ID
Marwan Sweedan 
Team member
Raised $575 from 7 donations
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