Local healthcare provider helps international medical grads jumpstart their careers

Since opening in 1999, Essen Health Care has hired and trained more than 150 international medical graduates on an annual basis, yet during COVID-19 it exceeded expectations and had more than 35 of students accepted into medical residency programs. Essen Health Care, which has one of the longest running training and job programs for international medical students based in the Bronx, enables thousands of men and women from all over the world to launch their careers as medical professionals. Unlike other hospitals or healthcare systems that only offer unpaid positions as volunteers or shadowing, Essen provides paid clinical assistant jobs. The clinical assistant program allows international medical graduates the opportunity to acquire administrative and operational skills, hands-on clinical experience, as well as learning best practices and networking from more than 400 providers within Essen Health Care’s network. Over the years, Dr. Sumir Sahgal, Essen’s founder and chief medical officer, has personally mentored some of the clinical assistants. “The Clinical Assistant Program is so essential for everyone involved,” Sahgal said. “These international medical graduates are gaining the experience they need to start their careers in the medical field, and they are playing an integral part in the Essen Health Care team as they also assist in providing much-needed care to our community. We couldn’t be prouder of their hard work.” Sahgal started Essen out of a single office in the South Bronx more than 20 years ago. Today, the practice has 30 locations throughout the Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens. And the international program has continued to flourish over that time, even during the pandemic. He said that typically about 18-25 students finish the program a year, so seeing more than 35 students during such troubling times really impressed him. “I feel very proud of their achievements and very fortunate to be part of their life’s journey,” he said. According to Sahgal, many of his international students were doctors in their native countries, but in the U.S. they must fulfill a residency requirement again and are often overqualified. Sahgal, who grew up in India and completed medical school there, can relate to what the students endure. “Everybody who comes to this country is grateful,” he said. “At the same time, it’s one of the most difficult countries to learn in. You don’t know the system and you are culturally different from what typical society is here.” In addition to ongoing training, Essen Health Care has partnered with numerous academic institutions for ongoing career development for clinical assistants looking to pursue other degrees and certifications. As a result of this program, about 20% of Essen Health Care clinical assistants secure residency placements so they can continue their education and training to become a practicing physician. Eligible candidates must have a valid U.S. work authorization and a medical school degree from an accredited university.