My Story of Becoming a Licensed Physician in the USA!😎


Click here to read this story in Marathi: माझी अमेरिकेतील वैद्यकीय कारकिर्दीची कथा

Everybody has their own story, and everybody has their own journey. Today, I am going to share my story of becoming a licensed physician in the USA. I have been an outstanding student since childhood; It was not difficult for me to get accepted into a prestigious Government Medical College in India. From there, I went on to complete a residency in anesthesiology. I earned an award of university topper in anesthesiology boards. I was delighted that I ended my educational era on such a high note. I thought, no more studies and no more tests for the rest of my life! The next plan was to get married, have two children, and live a great life with a good balance of family and career. Initially, I was happily and successfully working as a free-lance anesthesiologist (along with general practice). Later on, I worked as a full-time anesthesiologist at a big metro hospital. Everything was going well. Sometimes in our life, we cannot choose our destiny, because destiny chooses us. Something like that happened to me, and I ended up coming to America with my husband and two beautiful kids!👨‍👩‍👧‍👦

When we first arrived we lived in the state of Minnesota, where people are not very familiar with this IMG (International Medical Graduate) idea. I did not have any friends or persons in the medical field in America who could guide me. When I told others about my intention to study for USMLE (United States Medical Licensing Examination), they discouraged me by recalling stories of their friends who had failed.

When physicians come to the USA from all over the world they have to go through the process of completing the USMLE exams, which have what is called “steps”, (Step 1, Step 2 CK, Step 2 CS, and Step 3). These are computerized 8-9-hour exams which after successful completion, physicians must go through the residency match process. This is where they have to apply to residency programs, attend interviews, and await the match outcome. Once there is a match with a residency program at a hospital, they can start training. This training can take anywhere from 3 to 7 years depending on which specialty was chosen. The next step in the process is fellowship training if interested, which can also take anywhere from 1 to 3 years. Without residency, a physician cannot get a license to work as a physician in the USA. I was an ‘old graduate’, meaning the number of years from my medical graduation to the time of my residency application was about 15+ years. This was a big obstacle for me because the chances of getting accepted into residency decreases the longer you are out of medical school as the new and energetic youth is favored. I was not sure what the outcome would be, but I decided to give it a try so I would not have any regrets for not going for it.

Regardless of the unfavorable and adverse circumstances, I decided to start preparations to take the USMLE exams. People suggested that I do review courses as it had been a very long time since I studied anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, microbiology, pharmacology, etc. Back when I was studying for the exams, there were no online review courses available. My only option for a review course was in Chicago where there was a 9-week course available. My husband worked full time and it was not possible for him to drop the kids off the school and pick them up. We did not have any relatives or friends here in the USA to help us, and no one was available to come over from India to help me take care of my kids. Hence, I did not have any other option than studying at home. I was not very computer savvy but I started exploring all possible learning options. While learning computer skills, I found a website called usmleforum.com and I started gathering information, collecting study material, and making new friends through that site.

My typical weekday schedule became getting my kids ready for school, preparing breakfast, sending kids to school, washing dishes, doing laundry, cleaning the house, preparing lunch and calling my friends and family in India while cooking. After all the housework was done, I would spend a few hours studying. By that time, my kids would be home from school and then I would spend time making snacks for them, helping them with their homework and some extracurricular activities until the evening. In the evening hours, I would watch TV shows with them, we did storytelling time and read stories, as well as preparing dinner and getting my kids ready for bed. Initially, I was getting very few hours a day for studying. Slowly, with some time management, I was able to study for more hours each day. My family was my priority, and I did not want to compromise spending quality time with them, as a result, I decided not to study on the weekends and holidays. It was very difficult for me to go back to study mode after so many years with so many other responsibilities. But I kept going.

After studying for a few hours during weekdays, without any review courses, I scheduled my USMLE Step 1 test. My husband was sure that I was not going to pass the test with such minimal preparation. I went ahead and took the test, and I passed with a very decent score! I felt very accomplished, and it boosted my confidence, and so I started preparing for the next step with more enthusiasm. I studied with a study partner over the phone, and I found that it was more productive than self-study. I prepared for only four and a half months for USMLE Step 2 CK and scored 92 percentiles, and I thought it was a great achievement. I practiced with one friend for USMLE Step 2 CS where you have to interview and examine the actor patients and they grade your encounters in order to decide if you passed or failed. We went to Chicago to take that test, and I passed it on the first attempt. I was able to take Step 2 CK and Step 2 CS within a year after I cleared Step 1! After that I was ready to participate in the match process.

The other requirements for the application included a personal statement, letters of recommendations and research and/or hands-on experience. I started sending emails to local hospitals to obtain permission for shadowing or volunteer work.

As I mentioned before, people in Minnesota were not very familiar with international medical graduates, and so it took a while to get a response from anyone. One of the cardiologists from the University of Minnesota gave me a green signal to do shadowing for three months, and I utilized that opportunity. That was the only letter of recommendation I had at the time of application. I wrote a simple and genuine personal statement letter. My friends recommended getting it edited as it carried a lot of weight in the match process, but I did not follow their recommendation. I told them that I wanted to get an interview based on my own personal statement which reflected who I was; I did not want any editing. I had already decided to participate in two match processes as the first one would help me to get to know the process. I did not expect any interviews from the first match as I was aware of my limitations.

I submitted my residency application with only one letter of recommendation and without much expectations, and I continued living my life. I got a pleasant surprise when I got the first interview call on the 11th day of application. It was hard to believe!!! Luck was fully on my side and one after another the calls kept coming in. I got a total of 13 interviews. It was very overwhelming for me. I called and canceled two interviews as they were from small universities in Texas, where I believed my husband would have difficulty finding a job. So, I decided to cancel them so that other candidates could benefit from those spots. I attended 11 interviews and submitted the rank order list (a list of residency programs in order of your preference). This whole process started in September and ended in February of the next year, one month before the match day. As match time approached, my anxiety started increasing. At the stroke of 11 am on match day, one email appeared in my inbox stating that I matched successfully! I could not believe it. I asked my husband to make sure that I read it correctly! He assured me that I matched for sure. What a relief!! After 48 hours, I got another email about where I matched. It was my top/first choice, which was the Children’s Hospital at Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn, New York. It was a win-win situation. After this achievement, my husband lovingly gave me the nickname of “Bond 007”, meaning I can do impossible things possible. I found it to be very cute.😊

Everything happened so fast and we were not prepared for this. We had over two months to move to New York as I had to start my residency orientation in June of that year. My challenges changed then. I moved to New York and started a residency in Pediatrics. While getting used to the New York lifestyle, I was dealing with 24-30 hours continuous shifts, sleepless nights, while balancing family life and raising two children. It was not easy, but I had no choice and I did it. 

Things started getting settled slowly, and then a new situation arose. All my co-residents were applying for fellowships for further specialization. I was not sure if I wanted to go for another three years of fellowship. I thought of gathering some information about fellowship application requirements, so I sent emails to four places for child neurology fellowship. The program director from UMDNJ (University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey) offered me an interview for a fellowship position in Child Neurology. I went for the interview in a dilemma as I still had not decided if I want to do fellowship. After overcoming that dilemma, I accepted the fellowship offer and successfully completed it.

Then I joined a neuroscience institute and have been working as an assistant professor in Child neurology ever since

It is very gratifying to help children with neurological disorders and educate their parents to understand the condition, which helps them to care for their children better. At the end of the day, I feel content and satisfied! I decided to share this story with all of you to hopefully inspire some of you to go forward and work hard for your dreams even when the cards are stacked against you, because you never know, maybe they will end up in your favor! 

“Always believe in yourself and always stretch yourself beyond your limits. Your life is worth a lot more than you think because you are capable of accomplishing more than you know. You have more potential than you think, but you will never know your full potential unless you keep challenging yourself and pushing beyond your own self-imposed limits.” ― Roy T. Bennett, The Light in the Heart
Proofread by- Kerrian Duncan, an educator, Human Resources professional. Thank you, dear Kerrian.

26 Replies to “My Story of Becoming a Licensed Physician in the USA!😎”

    1. Thanks for sharing your story!! It is giving me more confidence in my self that their is no full stop, always a comma which continues to next journey. Their is not impossible, if you believe in yourself and no obstacles can stop you. Just be determined and focus you can do it!! Yes I can do it !!

    1. It’s very challenging for you ..but you did it ..only you will be the person you can do it ..👏👏

  1. Very interesting and inspiring life story saavi
    Proud of you and proud of being your friend!!!

  2. Very Great Efforts and dedication .. Adarshgruhini … Congratulations Dr. Savitra … Salute to you for your Achivement at this Age…
    Proud Feeling that I m your Classmate …

  3. I remember you as my senior in residency
    A very neat clean n disciplined girl
    Proud of you
    God bless

  4. Very inspiring Savitri !!! Thank you for sharing. All the best for your future 👍

    May I know where your working ?

  5. Very inspiring Savitri !!! Thank you for sharing. All the best for your future 👍

    May I know where your working ?

  6. Very inspiring Savitri !!! Thank you for sharing. All the best for your future 👍

    May I know where your working ?

  7. I am so proud to be a younger brother of you madam ji..
    Aap ko aur Aap ke pariwar ko Happy Diwali
    Jai shree Ram
    Jai hind

  8. I have read your blog in marathi and english both languages ! It feels so proud to say Dr Savi is my classmate ….very inspiring story Dear !💐

  9. Very inspiring story indeed. Hats off to your patience, perseverance & of course, intelligence. Will help boost the morale of many students to achieve their goals.

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