Bangladeshi Dr. Shafi Bhuiyan – a catalyst for new immigrant health professionals’ dream fulfillment in Canada

All of us who have immigrated to Canada come with many hopes and dreams are diligently trying to fulfill. A lucky few are successful in making their ambitions come true and are now living satisfactory lives with their family, friends and loved ones. But there are an exceptional few ones who are not only satisfied with their own successes but are dedicatedly and unselfishly working as a catalyst to bring the dreams of others to fruition.

Unfortunately, most of these motivators go unnoticed and unrecognized. I believe that we have a lot to learn from the examples of such people. Their altruistic actions make us proud and inspired to be Bangladeshi Canadian. The Bangladeshi community as a whole should endeavor to bring their achievements and selfless hard work to light by giving them every opportunity for maximum exposure.

Therefore, I would like to take the opportunity to highlight the achievements and dedication of one such catalyst, who made a difference in many new immigrants’/internationally trained medical doctors’ lives in Canada.

It is because of Dr. Shafi Bhuiyan that the disheartenment that I felt eight years ago, stemming from the negative views expressed by an academic regarding Bangladeshi students, finally got alleviated. I first got to know Dr. Shafi through Ryerson University academicians. During the introduction, they told me how proud they and the University were to have the honor and privilege of working with him.

ITMD’s alumni meeting was held on December 20th

Naturally, this piqued my interest. I had heard of him previously through a group called Bangladeshi Canadian, Canadian Bangladeshi (BCCB). But I learned more about him when I invited him to BCCB Healthcare Forum’s Information Session as a guest speaker. Later I got in touch with his department at Ryerson University and learned about his unprecedented activities.

Dr. Shafi Bhuiyan, MD, MPH, MBA, Ph.D. is a Distinguished Visiting Professor at the Faculty of Community Services and Co-founder of Internationally Trained medical Doctors (ITMD) postgraduate bridge training program at the G. Raymond Chang School of Continuing Education, as well as an Assistant Professor of Toronto University’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health. He is currently affiliated with two Canadian universities and is also working on a multimillion-dollar project. Most notably, he is the first person in Canada’s history to have opened up a bridging program that allows immigrant doctors to enter into non-licensed healthcare jobs.

Ever since I immigrated to Canada I have been hearing about the very limited number of licensing opportunities for doctors and the lack of alternatives available to them. It’s an unfortunate reality that many of the taxi drivers and delivery people here in Canada are actually internationally trained medical doctors (as a disclaimer, I would like to point out that I am in no way disrespecting these professions). The Canadian government was not active enough in recognizing and addressing this concerning situation, while the general public remained ignorant to any employment or career alternatives open to doctors who struggle to obtain a license to practice medicine in Canada.

It was Dr. Shafi who stepped forward with a solution in collaboration with the Chang School and GTA healthcare institutions to this issue and proposed the Internationally Trained Medical Doctors Bridging Program (ITMD), a program where immigrants with medical backgrounds can get necessary tools to get non-licensed healthcare jobs.

Dr. Shafi employed his vast national and international project management expertise and his unique skill set to successfully build up and start this program. The program is currently in its third year of operation, an amazing feat as there are tremendous hurdles that need to be crossed in order to get funding for immigrants. I personally have in-depth knowledge of a bridging program that is similar to ITMD but struggles each year to receive funding from the government. Due to the unprecedented success of Dr. Shafi’s ITMD program, the ministry of citizenship and immigration recently guarantees multiyear funding to the program.

I contacted the current and graduated students of the ITMD program and received very satisfactory feedback on the program, their success, and Mr. Shafi’s leadership and character. After speaking to his students, I contacted him directly to set up a meeting. Despite his very busy schedule, he carved up some time for me one evening. I was awe-struck by his simplicity. Although his professional stature is a lot higher than mine, I never felt that he differentiated between us in the two hours we spent chatting. I managed to learn a lot about him from our meeting, and when he attended the BCCB Health Care Information session to give his talk, he provided a lot of useful information regarding how international doctors can get jobs through the ITMD program. After the session, many people contacted us seeking further assistance. Every time someone was referred to Dr. Shafi, he would try to help them to the very best of his abilities.

Previously, Dr. Shafi was asked about his thoughts on the ITMD program’s extended funding, and his reply is what made me believe that he is an essential catalyst for immigrants in the medical industry: “The dreams that I inspired in some immigrants three years back have been fulfilled today. I want this process of dream fulfillment to be a continuous process. By doing so, not only will their dreams come true, but they will also contribute towards Canada’s economy when previously they would work odd jobs and pay, for example, only $200. Now they would pay $1000 tax.”

Based on his qualifications and experience, he could easily have devoted himself to a different field and found success in other projects. Instead, the tireless work that he is undertaking on behalf of immigrant doctors, with the help of the Canadian government, is highly commendable. After all, prior to him, no one even thought about doing so. Moreover, when a renowned Canadian university can boast about him and his accomplishments, then why not us (his Bangladeshi brothers and sisters)? If you visit the official website of the University of Toronto or Ryerson University, you can learn more about him in further detail.

Dr. Shafi arrived in Canada 6 years ago. He attained his Ph.D. from Japan, where he did his research on Global Public Health special emphasis on MCH Handbook system development to empower women and is currently doing the same here. It is worth noting that even UNO has welcomed his recommendations derived from his aforementioned research. Even in Bangladesh, he has several huge projects (i.e. Improvement of MCHTI and MCH handbook project) to his credit that he successfully completed. If I attempted to describe or explain all the research he has undertaken and all the achievements he has made in his academic career, I would need to write a lot more and it would take a lot more time.

I hope to see many more people like Dr. Shafi in every field; people who are not only dedicated to helping their fellow immigrants but are also putting their mark on contributing to Canadian society. I know that there are not many Bangladeshi people making an impact to the same scale as Dr. Shafi, but any situation where immigrants come forward to help others and create change need to be recognized for their hard work and remarkable achievements. Thanks to Dr. Shafi, we have an excellent example of what how a human catalyst can truly make a difference in the lives of immigrants.

Day in and day out we come across stories of despair, misfortune and harsh realities. So stories that highlight success and happiness should be recognized and publicized to let others know the good work that is being done in our country. I have already written about the success stories of a few ordinary people and some individuals have commented that it does not represent the successes of all the Bangladeshi Canadian immigrants. This might be true and my intention is not to deny this fact. Instead, my intention is to use these success stories to inspire others to make better decisions regarding their careers and futures. I am an individual but built stronger with the welcoming community.


The article is contributed by B Zaman Mukul, a Community Mental Health Case Manager in Toronto, Canada. E-mail: [email protected]

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This article has been posted by a News Hour Correspondent. For queries, please contact through [email protected]
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