Deepu Sudhakaran, MD, Bariatric Surgeon, Missouri
“17 yrs ago, circumstances brought me to US. With two bags and on a visa. Wanted to be a surgeon all my life. Everyone I talked to said, it’s an impossible dream in the US, being a foreign born physician. To get references I worked as a surgical tech, cleaned operating rooms, helped surgeons. Eventually I joined a preliminary program and made my way to finish my residency, two fellowships and an MBA. In the process, I did not see my children growing up, my beautiful wife ageing gracefully.
In another decade, I completed my terms of waiver job in the underserved area, applied for a national interest waiver to get my permanent residency in this country; but since, it has been a decade I am waiting. My two young children are citizen of this country and my wife is dependent on me. I am still hoping that one day I will be able to finally settle with my family in the community I serve, among the people that know me for decades, with the people that matter to me and in the place that I call my home.
One fine morning I woke up with a shoulder pain, got a CT scan to rule out blood clot, which incidentally found a tumor in my kidney, that was later discovered to be a cancer. I had to have one of my kidneys removed. With all my decades of struggle to establish a career and a family here, first time I introspected, what if I did not make it through the surgery? I don’t have any roots here; my wife would have to go back to India with two kids who never knew any other place than the US. Every day when I drive form work, I worry. If a mishap happens to me, what will happen to my wife and kids?
We all have a story to tell. Maybe your story just started. A story like: Age out children and cannot get into good colleges. Very skilled dependents not able to work. Cannot get a loan. Got in an illness and going to lose the job and the family has to go back… Many more… I can tell you now, if not today, one day these problems may come knocking your door…”
Smitha Suman, MD, Family Medicine physicians, Iowa
“I Moved to United states 10 years ago. Went through all the hardship and graduated from a Family practice program and found a dream job in an underserved community with an immense physician shortage. I fell in love with the job and community and had hopes of settling down which felt to be a reality when I started six years ago with husband having prospects of finding job locally if my permanent residency status were finalized. Later, we realized, the never-ending prospect of almost daily 150 mile round trip for my husband is an ordeal that we have to face for many more years to come due to the green card backlog which does put a strain on job situation and a functional family. Torn between family and work, though I would like to serve the community where I started off, I am having to move to out with regret and loss due to not being able to transfer patients to another physician, which only another primary care physician can relate to.”
Varun Malayala, MD, Hospitalist, Delaware
“Physician shortage in the US is a well-known fact. A 2016 analysis by a financial services company projected a shortage of between 14,900 and 35,600 primary care physicians across the country by 2025. Delaware, being a predominantly rural state has a challenge in recruiting and retaining the physicians. It is one of the few states that lacks a medical school and has to cross the state lines to recruit physicians and often hire physicians on work visa to serve the state’s population.
The shortages is only going to get worse due to population growth, aging community and retiring physicians. State law makers should actively consider strategies to cut down the physician shortage including funding for medical school and residency program training, entrepreneurship to young physicians and facilitate them to practice independently throughout the state without being restricted due to their visa status.”