Abdillahi Omar and Nazia Siddiqui
COMING TO SABA UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF MEDICINE FROM CANADA
Nazia: We are both from Toronto, more specifically I am from Mississauga and Abdillahi is from Brampton. We both went to the University of Toronto. Our houses are actually only 20 minutes apart, and we went to the same university campus but never met until we got to Saba since we were completing Bachelors’ degrees in different programs. My focus was Life Science with Psychology major and Abdillahi’s was Human Resources, Industrial Relations, and Sociology.
Abdillahi: I heard about Saba while looking for alternative ways into medicine as my undergraduate degree did not focus primarily on the sciences which limited my possibilities of getting into a Canadian medical school. I was also looking for a school that did not require MCATs from Canadian applicants, and where I would be eligible for the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) which would allow me to gain additional student loans.
Nazia: I was considering Caribbean schools and was looking for a school with the best chances of matching back into Canada. I was referred to Saba by another University of Toronto student who also went to Saba. The lower fees, OSAP eligibility, and incredible residency match history made this my first choice for a Caribbean school.
CLINICALS AT SABA
Abdillahi: We completed most of our core clinical rotations (Internal Medicine, Surgery, and Pediatrics) together, thanks to the clinical staff who were able to schedule us like this. Even our Family Medicine and OB/GYN rotations were at the same hospital, only different time periods. We did not complete any rotations at Wayne State, but we did notify them that we are couples matching and that this was a great location due to the close proximity to Toronto.
Abdillahi: For me clinicals were an exciting time, as it was an opportunity to see if what I had been taught for the past 2 years was the same in practice. Although I had accumulated a lot of knowledge, there was still plenty that I needed to learn when it came to interacting with real patients and combining my basic science knowledge with my newfound clinical knowledge. As I went through the clinical rotations I genuinely enjoyed all the different rotations, and the unique roles each of these fields played in patient care. This made it very difficult to decide what field of medicine to apply for. Ultimately, I was looking for a field that would allow me to apply all the knowledge that I had accumulated throughout my basic science training as well as clinical rotations into my everyday practice. This is how I chose Diagnostic Radiology, as this was a field that interacted with virtually every specialty in the hospital as all specialties ordered some form of imaging as part of their patient care. In addition, I came to realize how valued the opinion of the radiologist was when it came to clinical decision making as entire management plans were predicated based on what the radiologist said in their report. I completed two elective rotations in Diagnostic Radiology. I was able to secure my first rotation at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN and experience the practice of radiology in a purely academic setting. I left this rotation having obtained a letter of recommendation from a renowned Neuroradiologist who was recognized by some of my interviewers along the interview trail. My second radiology rotation was at Rochester General Hospital in Rochester, NY which had more of a private practice focus. This allowed me to get a sense of what type of residency program I would be interested in having experienced the two ends of the training spectrum.
Nazia: I approached clinical rotations with an open mind, and no specific interests in any one specialty. There were many different challenges that I encountered during rotations such as balancing time at the hospital with Step 2 CK study time. I enjoyed my psychiatry and internal medicine rotation, but it was on my subsequent surgery rotation that I fell in love with anesthesia. It was very similar to the work of lifeguards, which is what I did prior to medical school. I learned that these physicians are the best at anticipating and preventing problems (as opposed to reacting to them after they occur), they are uniquely skilled to help in any emergency, and are very systematic in their thinking. I also was drawn to the unique role of being a patient’s first point of contact as they enter the operating room, before they go to sleep and when they first wake up. Another appealing aspect was that we focused on one patient for a short amount of time as opposed to multiple patients over longer periods of time. To top it all off the material of anesthesiology was challenging and kept me mentally engaged. My anesthesiology rotation was scheduled at Rochester General Hospital (RGH) after a special request to the chair of the department. I had been very interested in matching and living in Rochester and thought this would be the best opportunity to secure myself an interview at the University of Rochester, as many anesthesiologists at RGH had trained or were affiliated with the University of Rochester.
A SABA LOVE STORY
Yes, we met on Saba Island as we were in the same May 2014 entry class and started dating in fourth semester.
We got married April 14, 2018, one month after the match in Toronto. We were engaged after our Step 2 CK exam in August 2017.
MATCHING INTO RESIDENCY
Abdillahi : The match process was a complicated one for us as we were both trying to match into competitive subspecialty fields (Radiology, Anesthesiology). We attempted to contact other former Saba students who matched as a couple, but could not find any that matched into subspecialty fields as most couples that matched together had matched to some combination of Internal/Family Medicine. Furthermore, because our fields both required preliminary years it complicated matters even more as the preliminary year cannot be linked in the NRMP rank algorithm. However, because we were both competitive applicants for our respective fields we were invited to many interviews. At our interviews, we made it clear that we were couples matching and would rank the programs highly only if the other partner was also offered an interview. This was quite helpful as Anesthesiology program directors would contact Radiology program directors and vice versa to let them know that they were interested in either of us as applicants. We had excellent receptions from places such as LSU Shreveport, Case Western University Hospitals, University of Missouri Kansas City, Wayne State University, University of Rochester, SUNY Upstate, SUNY Downstate, Baystate Medical Center, and Allegheny General Hospital. We are thankful to these places for accommodating us and we appreciate the program directors that went out of their way to create interview opportunities for us. By the time we were done with our interviews and ready to rank we had several options (20+) that would allow us to live together, so we were confident that would be together for our subspecialty training. Our only concern at this point was the preliminary year, as this could not be linked in the NRMP rank algorithm. We approached the Greater Baltimore Medical Center (GBMC) program director and informed him of our interest in the preliminary year. We were hopeful for this particular program as we both had spent 3 months together here, and Nazia had gone back for an ICU rotation. We assured them that we would rank them as our #1 preliminary program, and thankfully they considered us highly as well. This was a gamble as there were other preliminary programs that were interested in both of us, but we could only rank one of these programs as #1.