Dr. Katherine Miller’s story

My story -Katherine Miller, MD

I graduated medical school in Saigon, Vietnam 1996. I practiced there as family practitioner and OBGYN with general sonogram for almost seven (7) years before I immigrated to the US at the end of 2002. The primary reason I want to immigrate here is in search of personal freedom and social justice. I do not want to live in a communism even the communism in Vietnam has already been mutated into a weird muddle of “red capitalism” that even worsens human rights. With the clear perspective of a medical doctor, I have soon found out I do not belong there. I came to the US with a legal immigration status and became US citizen 2007. I am proud of being a US citizen. I am an American at heart; I confirm my loyalty to my country USA. However, with me, my previous country and its honest and humble Vietnamese people are still in my heart as the friends that I would never forget. It was just a sad period of life I have experienced there; the lyric of a Vietnamese anti-war song says: “One thousand years as of Chinese slavery, one hundred years under French’s dominance, twenty years of everyday civil war! Our mother’s legacy for her offspring, our mother’s legacy is a sorrow Viet Nam!”


For the primary reason of why I came to the US, I am ignorant about how to become a medical doctor here. As from my book, “Survival Skills for USMLEs and Medical Licensing in the United States”, I explained in details I am one in the group of foreign-trained US doctors who has known zero information about the intricate and puzzling medical licensing in the United States. The disadvantages do not deter me from my dream to return to the profession I love to do the rest of my life.


With determination to return to medicine in the United States, I eventually found out it is a long and challenging path. However, with much enthusiasm and positive spirit, I believe I can make it. From meticulous work and tremendous devotion, I passed all the USMLEs (United States Medical Licensing Examinations), the same medical board licensing examination that all domestic-trained MDs have to take to be licensed, including USMLE step 1 as basic medical sciences, USMLE step 2 CK clinical knowledge, and USMLE step 2 CS clinical skills with verification of medical school transcripts and diploma from Saigon Vietnam. I was granted the ECFMG certificate in 2011. My medical school from my previous country, Vietnam, has made me to pay them $2,500 for just sending the official transcript to the ECFMG (The Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates). I was punished for leaving Vietnam to find freedom. It was the price of freedom I have to pay on the way!


The absurdity of the current medical licensing is here. Passing all the USMLEs does not help to make you ready to practice medicine. The ECFMG certificate is only used for applying into medical residency while medical residency has become the big roadblock for finalizing medical doctor licenses.


Hindsight is 20/20 as the saying goes. Thousands of foreign-trained medical doctors including me and even about a few hundreds of domestic-trained doctor annually are unable to “secure” a residency slot. (Sarcastically, it is said “secure a residency slot”). We were totally blinded about this huge barricade until we have to get too close to it! The frustration only worsens. I had applied for medical residency all over the US for four (4) continuous years without success, wasting thousands of dollars. The same disturbing stories are like thousands of other doctors, both foreign-trained and domestic-trained!


I have volunteered for over ten (10) private practice of physicians in all kinds of specialties (family medicine, pediatrics, OBGYN, ophthalmology, ENT, etc.) since 2006 to 2011 while I was still working on my USMLEs. At the same time, I also worked part time. I had worked as a tutor in Vietnamese language and culinary for high school student in Northern California. I also was a tutor for mathematics (algebra, calculus, geometry, trigonometry), and life sciences and social sciences for junior high school students in Northern California. I am currently working as a caregiver nurse taking care of elderly and disabled people and a second job as a medical interpreter. I work seventy-five (75) hours a week with minimum wages to make my end-meet. Although I am not happy, I have found these jobs have brought me some minimal satisfactory sense of being helpful in certain minimal way to the people for their quality of life.


However, on the big picture, being a medical doctor with the reinforcement of the ECFMG certificate, a very high valuable one, and yet have to work alternative jobs, I have become victimized of a chaotic, absurd, and unjust medical licensing system. This is why I have thought and come up with a solution for this stalemate to liberate many generations of foreign-trained medical doctors who are in the same situation as mine. There has to be some alternative licensing path to re-use those valuable foreign-trained medical doctors. That is my Physician Associates and The Eco-Saver Attainable Medical Licensing Proposal is all about. Thank you for reading my story.