Opportunities Lead to Forgotten Dreams


Dr. Susan Li studied medicine for seven years in China to become a specialist in Internal Medicine, and also studied cardiology for two years. Like many others hoping to seek new life opportunities, Dr. Li immigrated to Canada with her husband in 2001.

When they first landed in Calgary, Dr. Li and her husband had a slow start. The couple stayed in an apartment with a friend, and Dr. Li’s husband who was an Engineer in China, began work at a window factory. For Dr. Li, she believed it would be impossible to become a doctor in Canada as she had little confidence in her English. Communicating in daily life would be difficult, let alone attempting medical exams in English.

Despite the undesired conclusion about her career in medicine, Dr. Li adopted an optimistic outlook. She was ready to begin a new life in Canada. Her first job was as a hotel housekeeper, far from what she was accustomed to, however, Dr. Li remained positive and open to opportunities. Later on, she even completed the level-1 childcare worker training at Calgary Immigrant Women’s Association. All the while, Dr. Li diligently studied to improve her English by reading, practicing English at the library and at her church, and participated in Toastmasters meetings.

Later on, Dr. Li was referred by friends to a job in a biochemistry lab. At the lab, she was able to utilize some of the valuable skills and knowledge she had had accumulated through her many years of study and work in China. Importantly, she also found support from her coworker at the lab. The coworker constantly encouraged Dr. Li to pursue recertification in Canada and live at her full potential.

Unexpectedly, Dr. Li found herself considering the possibility of becoming a doctor again; something she had once thought was unattainable. Doing some research online, Dr. Li found the Alberta International Medical Graduate (AIMG) program which assesses internationally trained doctors to identify eligible applicants to compete for residency positions. She visited AIMG and learned she would need to pass the Medical Council of Canada Evaluating Examination (MCCEE) and enter the residency program in order to practice medicine again in Canada. With renewed motivation, Dr. Li found study groups through AIMG where she found the support of other internationally educated doctors who she could relate with.

Pursuing her renewed hope of becoming a doctor again was no easy task though. Dr. Li passed her first round of exams, but was unable to pass the Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE) to qualify her for residency. Dr. Li was not discouraged. She took the exam a second time and passed, however, no residency spots were available to her. Yet again, her optimism prevailed. Although she could not enter a residency, she was offered a clinical assistant position. Upon her third attempt in 2009, Dr. Li found a residency in Internal Medicine at the University of Calgary.

Thanks to an optimistic outlook, willingness to take on any opportunities, new connections, and support of the people around her, Dr. Li unexpectedly found a place for herself once again in the Medical field. She now works as an Internal Medicine Specialist at Foothills Medical Clinic.

To newcomers, Dr. Li would advise on the importance of having good English and practicing public speaking abilities. Newcomers should also research the many resources that are available to help people achieve their goals. Most importantly, newcomers should adopt a humble mentality and be open to any opportunities, even though they may not appear to align with your goals.