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International Medical Graduates

ACP as a Platform for Professional Development

Clicerio Gonzalez-Villalpando MD, FACP
Director, Centro de Estudios en Diabetes
Mexico City, Mexico
Former ACP Regent

Some of you might have had the experience of living through an earthquake, but I am sure only a few have had the experience of surviving a devastating one, a major event in the life of a community, a city, a family, an individual. On that day, in September of 1985, I was out of my office giving a conference when the big one hit Mexico City, my place of birth, the origin of my life, where my family, friends and my patients lived. In one minute the country had lost more than 10,000 souls. I was told about the catastrophic event by a man who approached me and gave me his condolences. I was appalled, I called home, fortunately nobody was hurt in my family, but the hospital (my hospital) was destroyed. At that time there was no clear information about who was hurt, missing or dead. The only thing that was certain was that there was no more National Medical Center, a complex of seven buildings, 12 structures high, was destroyed. The feeling is beyond words. The magnitude of the images could never accepted, a city that looked as if it had been bombarded. I had a number of patients that died; some survived to keep in their minds for the rest of their lives these Dante-esque images. In a few minutes the country had lost more hospital beds and laboratory space than all the countries of Central America combined. The disaster had gargantuan proportions. I had returned from the University of Chicago five years before. It took me that time to build up my program, my clinical research center, my laboratory and my endocrinology service. The earthquake blew everything away. It was a devastating feeling. Who was responsible? Why? Who is to blame for this injustice?

Naturally, I got depressed, very depressed. I had to face a very difficult environment, surrounded by the pain of the many people that lost not only material things, but people they loved. I needed help. I made an effort that allowed me to focus on something solid, strong, pure, creative. I found our College. I started the process of my Fellowship induction. It was a symbol, the poetic perspective was the only possible approach to such unbearable circumstance.

At the Convocation Ceremony, I saw two Nobel laureates receiving the American College of Physicians Award. They were my role models, both of them internists, clinicians, scientists who had contributed with crucial pieces in the understanding of lipid metabolism. I was in the same room with them. A sudden urge to greet them personally went through my mind, perhaps a photograph. At the end of the ceremony, I dashed to meet them. When I stood up in front of them, they said to me, "Congratulations for your Fellowship!" I was so impressed that I got confused.

They were the Nobel Laureates, and they were congratulating me. The first two persons who did so! It was an uplifting sensation that gave me the boost I needed to emerge from my depression.

I love the College for many reasons, aspects that keep us in the perspective of a man. We as internists, approach our profession (and life) for the integrity of our patients (every human being) as the most important vision of our reality.

This article was prepared for the ACP IMG Web site in 2000.

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