Dr Catherine Velasquez on her Journey to become a PRM Doctor Abroad.
Catherine Velasquez, MD: I am a foreign medical graduate from Peru and successfully matched into a Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation residency in the US last year. This was the culmination of several years of preparation. During this time, I was lucky to do rotations in Miami and Houston. Each of these impacted my application differently and I hope these words help others like me.
First, a Peruvian colleague suggested reaching out to the University of Miami for a rotation. I was lucky to be accepted to do this rotation in March 2020. My time in Miami was unfortunately cut short due to the pandemic. Nonetheless, the clinical exposure was excellent during my few weeks. Additionally, the great project that lies ahead with the new Christine E. Lynn Rehabilitation Center is exciting. Seeing all the opportunities residents have to work directly with faculty on different projects, submit them for publication and presentations was something special. A huge shoutout goes to the administrative team that, despite the uncertainties of the pandemic, made my few days and eventual move out as smooth as possible.
Then, while in Houston, I applied to a volunteering opportunity at the Texas Institute of Rehabilitation and Research (TIRR) Memorial Hermann. Interestingly, I was exposed to patients in a completely new role. Instead of coming up with a daily plan and assessing their process, I was helping them move and getting rooms ready for them! This also exposed me to a completely new dimension of healthcare in the US. I had the chance to see firsthand how all the pieces contributed to the amazing outcomes of the institution. It was remarkable how effectively a team of practitioners could develop a treatment plan perfectly designed for each patient. Additionally, I could help with some research after my responsibilities were done.
While in Houston, I had the chance to meet some of the faculty and residents from Baylor College of Medicine. Either in a hospital setting like Texas Children’s Hospital or while volunteering at the Rehabilitation Services Volunteer Project. I was impressed by their commitment to patients, not only during daily duties at the hospital but also while dedicating their free time to provide physical rehabilitation services to a community with limited access to medical care. All these rotations made it clear that the commitment to excellence in patient care and research was what I wanted to do.
These experiences not only helped increase my knowledge, but also allowed me to gain the confidence, empathy, and positive attitude needed during the virtual interview season. If I could give any advice to my younger self, I think knocking on every door, staying humble, and being as proactive as possible towards these rotations were key to a successful application.
I would like to help in the development of physical medicine and rehabilitation in Peru by setting collaborations, either by performing medical campaigns or providing adequate training. Not only by treating patients but also teaching it and make it reproducible in every city. Show that rehabilitation medicine is not the job of just the physician, the therapists, or the patients. It is, by all means, a teamwork effort. No matter how small a task may seem it is always towards an improvement in our patient’s quality of life.