Fernando Guillen was an established physician who specialized in internal medicine in his native country of El Salvador.
But Guillen’s career path changed when he, his wife and son moved to the United States in 2014. His focus shifted away from medicine and, instead, to adjusting to a new culture and environment with his family.
Guillen has since found a way to reignite his passion for health care. For the past 5 ½ years, Guillen has served as an Oklahoma Caring Van event coordinator specialist with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Oklahoma.
“This opportunity has expanded my perspective about public health and the importance of immunizations,” Guillen said. “I’ve been able to continue to learn and read about the medical industry.”
In addition to his work as a BCBSOK team member, Guillen still has a desire to rekindle his career as a physician. He has steadily been taking steps toward becoming a doctor in the U.S.
This process, however, requires both time and money.
In order to obtain his medical license, Guillen must pass the United States Medical Licensing Examination, which includes a three-step process. Guillen is currently in the middle of Step 2, which requires Guillen to obtain permission from various doctors to supervise him and allow him to do medical visits and assessments in their clinics. As part of Step 3, Guillen will take an English proficiency examination and apply for a residency program. Aspiring physicians must pay for their applications to residency programs and will frequently apply for 50-100 programs to increase their chances of being accepted.
“It’s kind of a long process,” Guillen said. “It’s been very time consuming, and you’ve also got to divide yourself. You are a dad, a husband and at the same time you’ve got your job and still trying for this … Some days are very busy.”
In addition to navigating a time-consuming schedule, Guillen said adapting to a new culture, including the language barrier, has been a challenge in his progress.
“When we moved from El Salvador, we needed to learn another language and that was another challenge,” he said. “We were learning the language, the culture and adapting to a new environment. How you communicate with people is completely different. It takes a little time to adapt to a new culture and how to do things.”
Even with his unique circumstances, Guillen feels confident he will once again practice medicine and encourages others to chase their dreams as well.
“The first thing I would say is never give up,” he said. “Even if you see the steps you are taking aren’t going where you want to go initially, just continue to try and fight for it. It’s worth it.”