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A group of new Canadians with degrees in medicine and other fields who are unable to practice in Canada have banded together in Ottawa to provide mutual support while they work towards accreditation.
The informal group, which meets weekly at the Catholic Immigration Centre on Argyll Ave., began four years ago when Hassan Ghanim, then a fresh graduate, sought study partners.
After a couple of weeks, news of the meetings spread by word of mouth and soon a dozen foreign-trained doctors were regularly attending the free meetings.
Ghanim says 170 international medical grads have come through the group since he formed it. The aim for members is to refresh their specialization, but also learn about the licensing tests and accreditation process.
Ghanim, 29, was born in Iraq, spent his childhood in Canada, but earned his medical degree in Ukraine.
"I'm just waiting for my residency, but I'll continue doing this. I really want to contribute even more. I want to contribute financially to this team and to the CIC for giving us the opportunity to meet here," said Ghanim.
On the outside, looking in
Zahra Setoudeh, one of the 15 other international medical grads that regularly come to his weekly meeting, practiced gynecology for seven years in Iran before arriving in Canada last fall.
"I want Canada to know these people are here when they are fresh, they have to use them — not when they are depressed after a few years," said Setoudeh.
"We are all educated, we know that we can do it again. We are all clever people, we can do it again," said Setoudeh.
Setoudeh and Nasar Ahmad, a neonatologist trained in Afghanistan, say many in the class have taken jobs way below their education.
Jobs below education level
"If they go to the restaurant, or working as dishwasher, it's frustrating for everybody," said Ahmad.
Narghiza Suyunova comes from Uzbekistan and has been regularly attending these meetings for about 16 months.
The pediatrician has a specialization in neurology, but has been working as a personal support worker, and as a babysitter
"People want someone to come with enough education to take care of the kids," said Suyunova. "Of course it's very different for me, I used to work two jobs back home, I worked in a clinic and in a diagnostic centre."
Suyunova says the meetings not only keep her in touch with other foreign doctors and the subject she loves, they also keep her motivated and moving down the long road to Canadian medical accreditation.
"This helps me a lot because first of all I can compare myself with other IMGs (international medical graduates). Hassan — he's amazing. He's narrowing, refreshing all the subjects we already did. For me, now, it's very useful for what I need to know in English."