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April 2002

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 WINDOW ON CANADA

 

Callista Phillips

 

Indian Physician struggles, succeeds to pursue medical career in Canada and gets 

New Pioneer Award

                                 GlobalomNet Media Service

 

Pioneers Awards are presented by Skills For Change, a non-profit organization that provides new Canadians in the Greater Toronto Area with job training and encouragement. The awards recognise achievements of immigrants and refugees who have enriched our communities. Callista Phillips is one of the six to get New Pioneer Award for 2002.

 

 

 

Born in Mumbai (previously known as Bombay) to physician-parents, it was natural for Callista Phillips to want to be a doctor since she was a little girl.

 

Callista was a lecturer at Mumbai's J.J. Hospital and, earlier to that, a researcher at Indian Council of Medical Research at the KEM Hospital in Mumbai. She then moved to Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates where she spent two years.

 

She migrated to Canada 1998 with her husband, Trevor, and son, David. She was disappointed when she discovered that her specialty certificates in laboratory medicine and pathology were not recognised here and she could not enter the Canadian medical system unless she was licensed.

 

Even with the shortage of doctors across Canada, Callista, who was a family doctor and surgeon in India for 5 years, found it tough for foreign physicians to convince certification boards that they're qualified to practise medicine.

 

“The first statement I read in a booklet from the Medical Council of Canada was that it is virtually impossible to get any training positions in Canada for people who graduated outside this country,” she said. That was disheartening.

 

Callista considered seeking a research position, but just couldn't abandon her calling.

At that time, she learned about Skills for Change’s STIC program for foreign trained accountants, engineers, and healthcare professionals and enrolled in the healthcare group. Here she was encouraged to get back into the medical field.  Looking back, she said, “That decision changed my life.”

 

Skills for Change arranged for a co-op placement with a dermatologist that led to her shadowing medical staff at the Toronto General Hospital.  “I became familiar with the system and Skills for Change helped me focus my energy back to studies.” 

 

Callista’s determination to become a physician in Canada meant writing the required exams, which took two years to complete.  In May 2001, she was one of the 36 out of a group of 300 candidates selected for the ‘Ontario International Medical Graduates Program’ and was assigned to the medical school at Queen's University in Kingston.

 

After three years of frustration as a new immigrant to Canada, she recently completed a radiology internship at Toronto's Mount Sinai Hospital and is in the midst of the residency selection process that will eventually lead her back to full certification and she

can practice medicine in Canada. 

 

Callista is actively involved in the Association of International Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (AIPSO) and works to influence the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (the provincial regulatory body) on behalf of foreign trained physicians. She encourages internationally trained physicians to get back into the medical field by sharing information and personal experience of the licensing process.    

 

Although she has had to focus on her studies since her arrival in Canada, Callista has still made time to give back to the community. 

 

In an interview with Jim Wilkes of the Toronto Star, Callista said, “I still have a long way to go… It's just a matter of hard work, determination and being in the right place at the right time. If you continue pursuing your dreams, you can always make it in Canada.”

 

She says her motto is: “Troubles, like the hills ahead, straighten out when you advance on them… A positive attitude can get you whatever you want.”