LEAVING INDIA FOR THE U.S.
I was born in Chandigar, India, but I grew up in New Delhi and I went to medical school at AIIMS (All India Institute of Medical Sciences) College in New Delhi.
I had actually started out my residency in India after medical school, but you needed to have contacts in order for you to get a position anywhere. It isn't really how smart or qualified you are, but whether you have the right contacts. That really upset me.
I had a few friends who had come to the U.S. and they encouraged me to look into coming here too.
I came to the U.S. in 1993 to do my internal medicine residency at SUNY (State University of New York), in Syracuse.
During my training, there were about 20 to 25 residents and almost half were foreign medical graduates (FMGs). The previous year, 100% of the residents were foreign medical graduates. Everyone was very qualified and they were all fun to work with.
When I was looking for work, there really weren't many choices and I had to work in an under-served area to change my J-1 visa to a work visa. By a stroke of luck I found an opening in Fulton, New York. I picked Fulton because it is still relatively close to Syracuse, New York.
My wife, a dentist, works in Syracuse and we live in a suburb of Syracuse so she's close to work and I don't mind driving to Fulton.
FULTON, NEW YORK
Fulton is a relatively small town of about 15,000 people. It is about 99% white and mainly a blue collar working community.
I work at a non-profit facility that has about 67 physicians. Fulton is located in one of the poorest counties in New York. It's not an ideal place for most American doctors to practice. We have very few American-trained doctors in Fulton, but we do have all kinds of specialists at the facility, most of them are foreign medical graduates.
After spending three years here, I became partner at the facility, and in medicine, it's not a good idea to keep moving around. We are fairly close to Syracuse, which is a decent city, my wife and I have two daughters, so I think we'll be here for a while. We've been here for six years now.
The people in Fulton are very nice, life is slow and I think people are nicer because of it. They really appreciate having you there. In Syracuse or in the big cities, the patients really take their doctors for granted.
FOREIGN MEDICAL GRADUATES
I had absolutely no resistance from the Fulton community because I was a foreign doctor. I think people are used to foreign doctors and in some cases they prefer us because they think we spend more time with them.
At least in our town of Fulton, without foreign medical graduates, the hospital wouldn't survive. Patients get everything they need right here in town. The foreign medical graduates are not only the doctors but we are also running the hospital in this town. We are part of the hospital's board of directors as well. The people in town do appreciate all that.
Now, Fulton is no longer an under-served area, but not everyone who comes to Fulton stays here, especially no American physicians in the six and a half years that I've been here.
I don't think America would survive without foreign medical graduates. I have friends working in far-flung places in North Dakota and Minnesota, but also in inner-cities in bigger cities.
Dr. Rajeev Saini, originally from Chandigar, India, is an Internal Medicine specialist in the town of Fulton in upstate New York. He is one of the many Indian-born doctors who came to the U.S. as foreign medical graduates and have stayed on to serve in under-served towns across the country. Dr. Saini, his dentist wife, and their two children currently live in a suburb of Syracuse.