Monday morning was a nail-biter for medical students across the nation. It marked the beginning of Match Week, when soon-to-be doctors find out whether they got into residency programs.

In September, we introduced you to one of those hopefuls: Najwan Al Ani of El Cajon. Unlike many of her peers, she’s practiced medicine before – in war-torn Iraq and Jordan.

Foreign-trained doctors must spend several years and thousands of dollars to get back into the field they left behind.

Despite a call for more doctors and nurses to help providers keep pace with the Affordable Care Act, foreign-trained doctors must redo a significant portion of their training before becoming full-fledged doctors again in the United States. They have to pass three American licensing exams and compete for residency positions with fresh-faced medical school graduates – a process that often takes six years or more.

Al Ani’s experience treating shrapnel wounds and delivering babies in a war zone doesn’t move her toward the front of the line.

“Sometimes we faced lack of electricity while we were working,” Al Ani said of her two years working at a Baghdad hospital. “Especially for me, I faced a case of delivery without any electricity. I need just single flashlight to make this mom pass the delivery safely for her and her baby.”

Al Ani spent close to $10,000 and more than three years working with job counselors at the International Rescue Committee to get where she is now. This morning she learned she’s been accepted into a medical residency program. Friday she’ll find out where. She applied to Kaiser San Diego, Family Health Centers of San Diego (I wrote about their rare clinic-based residency program here), and a program in Ohio.

Below: Watch Al Ani get the good news.

YouTube video

Video by Megan Burks

“I don’t mind (going) anywhere. I loved all the programs that I applied to,” Al Ani said. “I’m so excited to restart my career, so that’s the big thing.”

Nearly 8,000 foreign-trained doctors applied for residency spots last match season. Less than half were accepted into programs, according to the National Resident Match Program. Overall, there were more than 34,000 graduates vying for positions.

Update: Al Ani got the details of her assignment Friday. She’ll be the first medical resident in a new program at Family Health Centers of San Diego. Program representatives said they learned of Al Ani’s quest to become a U.S. doctor through an earlier Voice of San Diego story.

Megan Burks is a reporter for Speak City Heights, a media project of Voice of San Diego, KPBS, Media Arts Center and The AjA Project. You can contact her...

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