The First Steps Towards Becoming A Surgeon
Like most kids I went to kindergarten. Elementary school was a Catholic school, then I went to high school. It was a big school, with a lot of students. Then in the last two years of high school, I moved to another because it had an emphasis on medical subjects. I had an idea that I wanted to be in medicine at that time, so I moved to that school and I finished there. That idea was sparked by an anatomy and physiology teacher I had. I had good grades in that subject so he appreciated me, and gave me the opportunity to work in the summer as an orderly in the hospital. As an orderly I cleaned instruments for surgery and cleaned the operating room. I think in the back of my mind, without knowing it, I wanted to be a surgeon.
I went straight from high school to medical school. I had to take a pretty serious examination in order to enter medical school. It was a six-year medical school in Argentina, which is not like in the United States, where it’s four years. Over there it’s longer so you don’t have to go to college for four years. From my experiences in the operating room, I knew I wanted to be a surgeon, and I knew I wanted to be trained in the United States. Before I came to the United States, I had an internship in Argentina and I had to learn English. The whole idea was for me to learn English and eventually take the exam I had to take in order to come to the United States in English. I studied English for as long as I studied medicine.
“I still have an accent, but, you know, I can’t get rid of that, its part of me. I can communicate pretty well”
The last two years of medical school I studied medical English to be able to take my licensing examination and pass it in order to be able to be accepted into an internship at a hospital in the United States. I had a specialized teacher that got me ready for the medical English exams. We spoke English all the time in her class, there was some exposure to English. Very few people in Argentina wanted to come to the United States so people didn’t study English besides elementary or high school. Even fewer people did something specialized like I did. I actually met my wife Betty at the language institute when she was 16 and I was 18. I remember it was kind of tough in the beginning with the language, because it is one thing to learn English in school and one thing to start speaking English at the speed that most people speak here. It took me about two to three months to get my ears used to the speed of the average American speaking to me in English. I still have an accent, but, you know, I can’t get rid of that, its part of me. I can communicate pretty well.
“This was the biggest challenge in my life”
Medical school was difficult at times. I remember some stuff that was kind of rough, but I put in the effort and I eventually succeeded. This was the biggest challenge in my life, preparing for all of those exams that I had to take in order to come to the United States to work. All of the preparation and time spent studying hard that occurred going those years was pretty tough. The stress of not making it was probably the most difficult part of that. You know that you have no choice, you have to pass it or you won’t make it.
All of that was just to get to the Untied States as an intern. I did an internship in Argentina before I came to the United States. When you choose to have special training done in the United States, you had to do an internship again. Whatever specialty you choose to do, in my case it was surgery, but if you wanted to be a cardiologist or ears, nose or throat you went to different training. You end up having a little bit of experience underneath your belt and then you decide what you want to specialize in.