‘When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it’- a popular quote by Paulo Coelho, always motivated me to aim for the impossible and to believe in the unimaginable. This is my journey in the making.
Being born in a small town, I had a big dream of becoming a doctor. Hundreds of exams, days of studying and uncountable sleepless nights later that dream was brought to reality on June 2018 when I graduated from Bangladesh Medical College as a registered physician. Medicine, Surgery and Ob/Gyn rotations during my internship taught me to be indulgent, diligent and kind towards my profession. Treating patients has never been more rewarding.
However, the dreamer in me kept dreaming. I wanted to learn the international standards of treatment protocol and, hence, pursued USMLE- The United States Medical Licensing Examinations, one of the toughest exams in the world. While studying for step 1 COVID-19 hit the world and along with most of the countries, Bangladesh was also shut down. The global pandemic made me realize the importance of research in the field of medicine; without innovation, even medical science stood helpless before the novel virus. That’s when I resorted to clinical research; reading books and online journals to learn the process of conducting clinical studies. In a year’s time, I had published a few papers and presented at conferences with the help of my mentors. And by the end of 2021, by the grace of the Almighty and the immense support of my friends and family, I passed USMLE step 1.
While studying for step 2, I was seeking to gain effective clinical experience and that’s when I applied for a position in icddr,b. The day I first walked into icddr,b was on my interview day. At a glance, it instilled an impression of being organized and systematic with very punctual timings. Beyond everything, the heritage and worldly achievements of the organization inspired me the most. Walking down the corridors, one can relive the legacy left behind by its ancestors in fighting cholera. That’s when I knew how much I wanted to be a part of this place.
A few months later, when I was called to join icddr,b, I was thrilled; little did I know what I was about to experience would be life-changing. My first day was on March 23rd when I was ushered into the ‘war-zone’, where doctors were fighting the diarrheal outbreak, reportedly the worst of its kind in the history of the organization. The senior doctors were leading an army of fellow doctors, nurses and healthcare workers. The victims (i.e., patients) brought into the emergency department were immediately assessed based on severity and the most severe cases were attended to by instant intravenous access without further delay. Over 60 patients were being treated per hour. The patient count reached a behemoth number of 1400 on my first day. Media reporters were lurking over every corner of the hospital. It was a battlefield.
That was the day I witnessed how teamwork and prompt action can save hundreds of lives; how lethargic comatosed patients were brought back to life by a simple saline infusion. The battle continued for a few more months and during those days, I was proudly a part of the army, fighting my way through triage and short-stay ward (SSW). During the course of 4 months, I was guided and instructed by very skilled and experienced doctors. We would have case presentations and discussion classes on noteworthy topics. Amidst all of this, I met some wonderful friends and colleagues whom I can count on for life. The experience was fascinating.
From my experience, I realized icddr,b creates physicians who are capable of bringing about innovation in the field of medicine and not just practice traditional protocols. Every day, patients were being treated and recruited for new research studies in order to find ways to improve the treatment for the future. This further ignited my passion of becoming a physician-scientist and to take the treatment standards of my country to an international level.
I started emailing hospitals in the United States and reaching out to research faculties individually. After hundreds of emails, I was interviewed by my dream program in the cardiology department of Mayo Clinic, the world’s best hospital. It was probably my eagerness or my dedication towards the field of medicine that gave me the auspicious opportunity of being offered a position at the renowned hospital; a mystery I’m still trying to solve and a gift from the Almighty I’ll be forever grateful for.
Hence, with a heavy heart and a mind full of memories, my journey with icddr,b came to an end on July 30th. However, this does not mark the end, but in fact a new beginning as I carry the memories and knowledge along with me to my next workplace, Mayo Clinic, as a research trainee in Cardiovascular Medicine. From being guided by my nation’s best research and healthcare organization to representing my country internationally, I will always cherish every moment spent within the walls of icddr,b.
This is, indeed, a turning point among many curves of my journey. Looking back, I would like to remind every aspiring physician-scientist, who is hesitant of pursuing their dreams, to know that nothing is impossible if you have the audacity to dream.
Dr. Pauline Francisca Gomes