I relocated to New Zealand after completing my Internal Medicine specialist training in Jamaica Hospital Medical Center, Queens, New York City; and I currently work as a Consultant Physician with a special interest in hypertension, at Tauranga Hospital.
City, Country, Town: A Tale of Two ‘Cities’
Ian Powell, Executive Director of ASMS said, in Issue 6 of the ASMS magazine published in February 2017, that “New Zealand’s success in attracting overseas-trained doctors isn’t matched by our ability to hang onto them1”.
A recent research was conducted and it looked into International Medical Graduates (IMGs) in New Zealand, as well as key factors influencing international medical migration. The main findings were summarised in an 11-page Research Brief published in the same Issue2. It states that hospital specialists come to New Zealand for a lot of reasons, including perceptions that their quality of life will be better, despite settling for lower salaries.
Immigration data published by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) show one in six New Zealand trained doctors are working overseas3; and earlier OECD research indicated New Zealand had the second-highest expatriation rate of doctors in OECD countries (behind Luxembourg), based on country of birth4. Consequently, to attempt to fill the medical workforce gaps, New Zealand has the second-highest proportion of IMGs among OECD countries (behind Israel), including 43% of the specialist workforce5.
Many of these IMGs leave families and friends behind and migrate from cities larger in population than that of the entire New Zealand population, to settle in towns that are completely different in almost every way. The culture shock can be seismic, leading to disillusionment and, sometimes, ultimately a decision to return to the life they left behind.
This is my story; a story of how I left “the best city in the world”, for the coolest country in the world, and settled in a town that reshaped my thinking and outlook on life. I will attempt to address the challenges that, not only I, but other IMGs, particularly from my world, face as we undergo this transition in our careers.