They have come from medical schools and universities located around the globe from places like Guadalajara, Tehran, Baghdad, Wisconsin and California. They are immigrants, nationals, and locals. They are the future healers of the sick here to fill the severe shortage of physicians we so desperately need in the Inland Southern California region.
They are the first class of internal medicine residents, a class of 25, chosen from a group of 300 applicants for the new Riverside Community Hospital/UC Riverside School of Medicine Internal Medicine Residency Program. It represents the culmination of years of hard work to develop and implement the hospital’s graduate medical education program and is a significant milestone in the 115 year old hospital’s growth and development and its effort to fill the massive physician shortage in the Riverside area.
“They were carefully chosen for their academic accomplishments and are the clinical and academic leaders of the future,” said Dr. Kenneth Dozier the hospital’s Chief Medical Officer. “They are our legacy and future.”
The group is clearly a “united nations” of newly minted physicians.
“One half to two-thirds are from other countries, where many practiced and did research. And because of their upbringing and background they have a thought-process of giving back,” Dr. Dozier proudly explained, “they think of the patient first not as a by-product or just a job.”
I had an opportunity to talk to one of the residents before he and the rest of his colleagues were presented with their white coats in an inaugural ceremony held at the hospital earlier this week. Dr. Bashar Al hemyari was born in Iraq and graduated from the University of Baghdad. At 29 years old, he has a youthful face and a warm smile. And he’s looking forward to practicing primary care here in Riverside because the community is medically underserved, he said. He even moved to the city as soon as he learned of his acceptance to the program.
“I wanted to be a doctor since I was five years old,” he said, “my grandmother always told me ‘you’ll heal everyone’.” For the young Dr. Al hemyari healing the sick has been a passion. For him it’s a greater mission.
In 2012 he arrived in the United States at the request of his brother, a government IT contractor who worked with the US Army in his home country and was forced to flee two years prior when his life was threatened by extremists. His brother is now an American citizen living in Virginia with a wife and two kids. “I arrived in this country after medical school in Baghdad and studied to take the USMLE exams at Kaplan Medical in Houston and passed,” he said with pride. All physicians with a medical degree are required to pass the USMLE (United States Medical Licensing Examination) before being permitted to practice medicine in the U.S. After successfully passing the exam, Dr. Al hemyari took advantage of an opportunity to do research at UCLA before applying for the Riverside residency. Almost two months ago he earned his citizenship and moved to Riverside, a city he plans to reside in after he completes his residency, “I love Riverside,” he said, “I want to make it my home.”
In a time when immigration is being used as a politically polarizing issue both in the United States and across the pond, and an anti-immigrant sentiment and rhetoric is fueling nativist movements internationally, Dr. Al hemyari and his fellow internal medicine residents remind us that our world is already truly a global one that provides more value to us daily than harm.