We all have it: the story we tell when someone asks, “How did you end up in
I’m fascinated to hear the other stories out there, short, long or medium versions. So, I’m turning this into a game of tag. I’m tagging Angelo, Jeff, Boni, Bev, Brad and Bree to write about their
I’ve always wanted to work internationally. I grew up in a Bahá’í family, and there were two messages positive that infused my childhood. One was that the highest station for a human being was a life of service to others. The second was that it was a praiseworthy act to leave one’s homeland to serve in a place where one is really needed. The possibility of living internationally was something I grew up with. It was actually something I aspired to.
In the winter of 1992, as I was finishing my ophthalmology training, I was also in the midst of a huge personal crisis, wondering what would be the next step in my life. I prayed and meditated a lot, but I didn’t get very far. At the time, my sister, who is an attorney, was working at the Bahá’í World Centre in
I returned to
I was starting to hear back from the hospitals around the world. Everywhere wrote back saying, “We’d love to have you. We cannot pay you a penny.” Thanks to my parents, I was lucky enough to get out of medical school without any debt, so I didn’t need a high paying job, but I did need to make some money. There were two places that could pay “subsistence” wages – a hospital in the
But I still wasn’t sure if I should get further education or go to
I finished my training on June 30, and three weeks later I boarded a plane for
The year in
By the end of my year in
I had sent
I was initially hired by the CNMI government on a one month contract as a consultant – to treat patients, but to also look at ophthalmology needs in the CNMI. At that time, the place was flush with money, and the hospital had been bringing a couple of ophthalmologists here from San Diego, and paying them insane amounts ($500,000 for five weeks work – I saw the check with my own eyes). I offered to work full-time for half that amount, but of course, there were ceilings on government employees so that wasn’t a possibility, even though it made complete sense.
Anyway, my consulting contract was renewed a couple of times while the government worked to create a full-time position for an ophthalmologist, and within a few months I was hired as an employee of the Commonwealth Health Center with a usual salary.
I enjoyed my work there, and during those five years I built The Center for Eye Disease at CHC. It was fun. I published a couple of scientific papers, attended conferences at the CDC, and worked on public health issues. But, there was a limit in terms of how much I could improve things. The hospital couldn’t budget for the more advanced technologies I needed to raise the level of care, and each year there were worries as to whether or not funding would be available for my position.
By this time, Mara and I had decided to make
I have a couple of other “