It is never easy to decide to immigrate to another country, irrespective of the reasons behind that decision. Immigrants often encounter challenges as they leave their home country to embark on a new life. It is therefore important to prepare for this experience long before beginning it.
I emigrated from my home country of Pakistan and came to Canada through the United States, but my immigration story begins before I left home. Overall I had a pleasant experience; however, to avoid professional challenges, I began to cherish new hopes.
Before arriving in Canada I had heard many stories about the difficulties internationally trained doctors contend with in their efforts to practice medicine here. Trained overseas as a physician, I started thinking about alternative careers in health care in case I would also face problems. At the same time, I studied for exams that would allow me to secure a medical license in Canada.
This is a great challenge for internationally trained physicians, who are stressed mentally, physically, and financially as they attempt to meet the demands of the licensure examination process—which are disproportionate to the actual medical practice needs of a doctor in Canadian society. Canada’s lack of residency openings is another reason that some physicians pursue other options while trying their best to stay in touch with the profession.
While still in Pakistan, I searched on the internet and communicated with Canadians who were once immigrants themselves—and learned of several health career options:
- Clinical research
- Health administration or management
- Health counseling
- Health advocacy
- Medical communication
- Community service
- Health promotion service
- Medical product sales
- Emergency medical personnel
- Infection control professional
- Health coaching
These careers may require internationally trained doctors to earn a diploma or certificate, or attend college or university. As I explored these alternatives, I realized that medical research had always fascinated me. I now saw my future immigrant situation as an opportunity to learn about research in depth and to use that acquired expertise as a step towards progress in this country. Therefore, I started looking for medical research training opportunities at various Canadian colleges and universities.
I came across the Clinical Research Associate (CRA) certification program at McMaster University before I arrived in Canada, and enrolled at the Hamilton campus soon after. Online study options are also available to students, but I think it is better for most people to experience the academic environment personally, if feasible. Another advantage to studying on campus: While attending different CRA modules, I received an education not only in clinical research, but also in Canadian culture.
I have completed the CRA and am now looking for full-time work as a professional clinical research associate. Developing a professional network of colleagues, friends, and supporters helped me to accomplish my goal. My network helped me even before I arrived here.
Related Reading: Networking as a Newcomer in Canada
The best tip for integrating well into the system as in immigrant is to find the right network at the right time. Obtain useful information from those who truly want to help you. You will increase your chances of coming across promising opportunities that match your interests and experience. The effort it will take will depend on your situation, background knowledge, and attitude toward people and life—or, at times, how people and life treat you.
In any case, it is a learning experience worth trying, especially if you are willing to explore alternative or related career paths.