From a young age, I had a dream of becoming a doctor and providing quality healthcare to my fellow Tanzanians. I saw medical education in the United States as an opportunity to close the knowledge gap that currently exists and to be at the forefront of research on the diseases that afflicted my country. When I was a high school student in Tanzania, I was warned that my chances of being accepted into an U. S. medical school were scarce, mainly because very few schools accepted international students.
In addition, as a low-income student, my advisor warned me that a medical degree in the United States was financially inaccessible. Despite these warnings, I decided to take a chance and applied extensively to universities around the country that not only accepted non-American citizens, but they also provided financial aid to cover attendance costs. I was accepted to Yale University, where I earned a degree in molecular, cellular, and developmental biology and conducted research on malaria and other parasitic infections for more than two years. Finally, I took graduate courses during college and for another year afterward, and successfully graduated with a master's degree in public health from the Yale School of Public Health. However, many of my questions about visas during medical school, financial aid for international students, and the viability of applying for them went unanswered.
To help other non-US citizens who are considering applying to medical school in the US, I founded F-1 Doctors. Our mission is to cultivate a community of foreign-born health workers who support each other through a free, online, peer-to-peer mentoring platform. In addition, our goal is to break the myths about applying as a non-US citizen and affirm that international students can be accepted to health profession schools and that financial aid exists. The platform offers specific resources for applying as an international student, including webinars, a personalized Excel spreadsheet on medical schools that accept international students and their respective financial aid policies, and links to private institutions that provide loans to non-US citizens. For those who wish to remain in the United States after graduating from a health professions school, F-1 Doctors can be a useful tool to strengthen a portfolio of health professionals that is representative of the diverse patient populations in this country.
Regardless of the career choice that non-US citizens dream of becoming health professionals to bring about a change in unequal delivery of health care. As F-1 Doctors continues to expand its network across the country we aspire to make health professions school application process more accessible so that international students don't feel like they are alone on their journey.