From Refugee to Resident Physician

Dr. Najwan Al Ani practiced medicine in Jordan and war-torn areas of Iraq for seven years before coming to the United States in 2010. She knew it would be a long process to achieve her dream of practicing medicine here in America, as foreign-trained doctors must redo a significant portion of their training, pass American licensing exams and compete for residency positions. But Najwan had help on her side.

Najwan learned about the Bridge to Employment (BTE) Program, which is made possible through the Health Profession Opportunity Grant (HPOG). BTE is one of many career-focused programs offered through the International Rescue Committee (IRC). A SDWP funded partner, IRC helps refugees become self-reliant and find meaningful employment. Each year IRC offers grants, job-readiness training and guidance to 75 East County residents. Many of these participants are refugees who worked in healthcare back in their home countries and are eager to continue working in this field in San Diego.

Najwan first enrolled in the program to receive financial support related to the cost of the licensing exams; however, she soon discovered the benefits of the other services, including working closely with counselors who could help her search residency programs online and navigate the American healthcare system. She met weekly with counselors who helped her prepare for the application and interview process, including writing a personal statement, which is one of the requirements to apply to medical residency programs in the United States.

In March 2014, Najwan learned that she was matched for a residency program with Family Health Centers of San Diego, where she is now working as a resident family physician and providing care to a diverse group of San Diegans accessing medical care through community clinics throughout the region. Najwan’s new dream is to give back to the San Diego community, working to provide needed medical support to underserved patients.