Another interview with a medical nomad: Dr. Akpezi Oshobe who is a PGY-2 (postgraduate year 2) resident in Internal Medicine.
We have been chatting on Instagram ever since we were introduced to one another through a mutual IG contact (who also happens to be an IMG now turned attending physician). Her story highlights the importance of mental strength & the toughness required to achieve her dream of becoming a physician in the US!
Dr. Lum: Please tell us a bit about yourself.
Dr. Oshope: I am originally from Nigeria. I initially studied human anatomy. I knew that the job prospects for me were nonexistent as an anatomist in Nigeria. After graduation, I decided to pursue my dream of being a doctor so I went to Ukraine for medicine and I graduated in 2012. Upon graduation, I came to the USA.
Dr. Lum: Tell us about the specialty you are practicing in?
Dr. Oshope: I am currently PGY-2 in internal medicine. The schedule is hectic and demanding. My day starts at 5 AM and ends at 6 pm on average, and I work six days a week. During hectic rotations, I have even worked until midnight! But, I love what I do or else I am sure I would have quit!
Dr. Lum: Good to know you love your job. When did you take USMLE step 1? What score did you obtain on step 1?
Dr. Oshope: I wrote the USMLE step 1 for the first time in 2011 and failed. Looking back, I took the exam as a total novice. I had not heard of USMLEworld, and I did not know the implication of failing. After graduating in 2012, I decided to give it another go. There was a lot of negativity about retaking the steps, and everywhere online I read how programs immediately declined people that had an attempt. However, I knew that my story was different. So I came to the USA, enrolled for my masters and prepared for the USMLE again and wrote the exam in April 2013. I passed with a score of 215.
Dr. Lum: Thank you so much for opening up about the failure you once experienced. What studying technique worked best for you the second time around?
Dr. Oshope: My studying mainly involved USMLE world and First AID. In the morning I would read a subject in first aid and solve corresponding questions in Uworld. I would make notes from the right and wrong answers because sometimes I picked the right answer for the wrong reason. After this, I would study towards my master’s degree program. At night I went over my Uworld notes before going to bed. The first thing I did the next morning was to read my notes again then continue with new material. I also had a study partner, or maybe I should call her my accountability partner. She has been a dear friend since high school, and we reconnected in the USA. Knowing that she was waiting for me online spurred me on to study because I didn’t want to waste her time. More importantly, I didn’t want to look stupid while we were discussing (laughs). Our discussion made me remember things better, and a lot of concepts we discussed were easier to remember than if I had just read on my own.
Dr. Lum: How about step 2? Can you tell us more?
Dr. Oshope: Due to personal issues and my masters, I did not start preparing for step 2 CK till October of 2013 and wrote step 2 CK December 31st, 2013. I passed at first attempt with 229. Shortly after that, I moved. So I wrote my step 2 CS and passed in March 2014 also on my first attempt.
Dr. Lum: What studying techniques do you attribute to your success on step 2?
Dr. Oshope: By the time I had to take step 2, I honed in on the same techniques I used in step 1. During my hiatus, my study partner had written her exam, but she was kind enough to continue to come online and have discussions with me.
Dr. Lum: Doctor, I bet you are saying accountability works! When did you take step 3?
Dr. Oshope: By step 3, I was used to the routine. However, I was again facing a personal issue and looking to move, so my stress level was really high. I wrote my exam in July of 2014 and passed with 204 at first attempt.
Dr. Lum: Did you have any gaps in your education?
Dr. Oshope: I did not have any gaps during my initial medical education, but I had a 5-year gap because I didn’t match until 2017. During that time I got my MBA with a concentration in Health Administration and did observerships.
Dr. Lum: Did you participate in clinical rotations at any US hospital prior to match day? Was this helpful to your match process? If so, please explain.
Dr. Oshope: I did observerships in private clinics, but some of my attendings were affiliated with teaching hospitals, so I accompanied them during rounds. It was helpful for the match as most of my observerships were in the family and internal medicine, which gave me good references for my application.
Dr. Lum: Did you participate in research or an observership at any US hospital? Can you share what you learned from this experience? Was it beneficial to how you matched?
Dr. Oshope: I participated in some research. I made a valuable contact who referred me for two research opportunities. This was in 2016, my visa was nearing expiration, and I was already giving up on my US residency dream. One position turned me down right away, and the other position interviewed me. I had no idea what would come of the job especially since I needed a visa. I was assured that if I got the position, they would sponsor my visa as well. I had to go back to Nigeria due to my visa issues but was still in correspondence with the hospital. After a few months, I got the job and started right back on my USMLE journey with a new zeal and reinforced hope! I got an excellent reference letter and matched in 2017 at my dream program. I matched five days before having my twins. It was the best week of my life!!
Dr. Lum: That story makes me tear up. Looking back at the journey to get to where you are at, what advice would you give to yourself looking back at the process?
Dr. Oshope: I would tell myself not to sweat the small stuff. Not to look at the impossibilities and never doubt God’s plans.
Dr. Lum: Please share general advice for someone who has a similar path like yours? What are some lessons you have learned and how did it shape your practice today?
Dr. Oshope: My journey to residency was a long and difficult one. I had a failed attempt and not too stellar scores. By all accounts, I should not have matched! However, I had a raw desire and steadfast determination. Most of all I had faith that God would come through for me. I also knew I had to see my dream to the end even if I didn’t match. So I worked hard, this required sacrifice, some days I slept only 4 hours between, studying for USMLE, my masters and observerships. There were not enough hours in the day. I was away from my fiancé for 5 years, but was blessed to have his undivided support! The financial aspect was also very challenging but my family always came through with unflinching support. They also refused to accept it when I felt defeated. They are the real MVPs. Lastly, my study partner was my vent partner! There were a lot of things I was going through which only she could understand!
Dr. Lum: What is your mantra for your success thus far? Any struggles you had to overcome to get to where you are.
Dr. Oshope: My mantra is that giving up is never an option. You can stop for a minute, but you have to keep moving. On this journey, you have to be hard working, focused, resilient and never give in to negativity. Lastly, surround yourself with the right people.
Guys, her story is one that offers hope after a failed attempt. But her gusto in the process is actually what made the difference. Accountability keeps you on track with your goals, do you have an accountability study partner?