Carlos Requena is a hospitalist at Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor, Maine. After three years of serving patients at EMMC through the Conrad 30 Program, Carlos, along with his wife Lupe, received Green Cards (lawful permanent residency) in the United States through hospital sponsorship in June 2020. He took time to reflect on his experience as an immigrant to the United States as part of FordMurray’s Profiles in Immigration.
Eastern Maine Medical Center physician Carlos Requena knew he wanted to be a doctor from a young age. But growing up in Chimbote, Peru, a small city on the arid central coast, he could have never fathomed practicing medicine in Bangor, Maine.
As a hospitalist at EMMC, Carlos is responsible for administering and overseeing healthcare delivery for patients who are admitted to the hospital. In this capacity, he is following in the footsteps of his uncle, who was a surgeon in his hometown.
“We all wanted to be like him,” Carlos said. “He was my inspiration.”
From Peru to Chicago
To follow his dream, Carlos earned a Doctor of Medicine Degree from Universidad Nacional de Trujillo in Trujillo, Peru, before completing his Internal Medical Residency at John H. Stoger Jr. Hospital in Chicago. Carlos knew he wanted to attend residency in the United States during medical school, when many of the books he referenced came from the United States. “The U.S. has a lot of prestige,” he said. “All of the best universities, the best research – so much knowledge comes from the United States. I wanted to be part of that.”
In Chicago, Carlos gained an understanding of cultural differences that were both challenges and learning opportunities for the young physician. He immersed himself in U.S. culture, learning about sporting traditions, history, politics, and scientific innovations in the United States. And everywhere he looked, he could see a place for his own American story.
“The United States has accomplished so much in such a short period of time, and a lot of that is driven by individuals like myself who migrated here and did something,” Carlos said, adding that he felt valued by his patients and fellow physicians, and appreciated that his medical career would be defined by the quality of his work, and not external factors such as political or family ties.
When his residency was complete, Carlos began to discern how to further his medical career in the United States.
The Conrad 30 Waiver and Building a Life in Maine
Like many foreign physicians, Carlos completed his residency on a J-1 visa, a cultural exchange visa that requires physicians to practice medicine for two years in their home country before being eligible to work in the United States. In order to waive the Home Residency Requirement (HRR), foreign physicians must work in a medically underserved area for three years, either through federally-administered programs or through the Conrad 30 Program, which grants 30 waiver slots per year to every state in the country.
Demand for Conrad 30 waivers vary from state to state. In large states such as New York, Illinois and Texas, lottery systems determine who can apply for the coveted waiver slots. Some smaller rural states hand out their Conrad waivers in a matter of weeks, others don’t use them all. In Maine, Conrad waivers are usually assigned within the first few months of the fiscal year.
When Carlos began searching for work, he knew he would be working in a rural or underserved community, but didn’t know much else about the hospitals and communities he would soon serve. The United States is so big, and every place looked so different. He ended up choosing Eastern Maine Medical Center, the largest hospital in the Northern Light Health network for providers, because the facility would help facilitate his professional growth.
“I trained at a large busy hospital in Chicago and was used to seeing lots of complex and sick patients on a daily basis. EMMC resembled the level of acuity and complexity I was looking for to continue gaining experience as hospitalist.”
When he arrived in Bangor, he was immediately struck by the friendliness of his colleagues and patients.
“I like the way people treat you,” Carlos said. “My experience with older people and younger people is the same, I can tell it’s a cultural thing that comes down through generations.”
In his free time, Carlos enjoys spending time outdoors with his wife Lupe and three-year old son Rodrigo, exploring the Maine’s rivers, mountains, and rocky coast. The Requena family was prepared for Maine’s harsh winters, after three years of living in Chicago, and enjoy the four distinct seasons in Maine.
Obtaining a Green Card, and Looking to the Future
With a green card in hand, Carlos has flexibility to pursue his own American dream. With permanent resident status, Carlos can now apply to fellowship programs in cardiology – an opportunity that was limited as a nonimmigrant.
Carlos said Founding Partner Michael Murray and the FordMurray team have been integral to his immigration journey. He found particular comfort in the firm’s commitment to responsiveness and communication.
“When we first got here, our visa was in limbo for six weeks, and we were very scared,” Carlos said, adding that Michael was there for him, no matter the time of day or day of the week. “He was there, providing information every step of the way, and I knew I could send him an email any time and he would get back to me. I only have gratitude for how supportive they are.”
As much as he loves the United States, Carlos sometimes misses the experience of being around family. Although they can regularly see parents, sibling and cousins on Zoom meetings, travel to Peru is difficult from New England. But Carlos is committed to building a life in the United States.
“I love this country, because no matter where you come from, you can still reach your dreams and goals,” he said. “That isn’t written anywhere but the country has that culture. There are so many opportunities here for my family. I want Rodrigo to have access to those values and opportunities.”
If you are a foreign medical physician and would like more information on the Conrad Waiver program, click here. If you are hospital or healthcare provider, contact us for a complimentary consultation.