From Toronto, Canada to Johns Hopkins Medicine
Cardiovascular Disease Fellow at Johns Hopkins University
As an international student, Dr. Savji navigated the US visa process throughout his training before becoming Cardiovascular Disease Fellow at Johns Hopkins University.
Tell us about your educational background:
I was born and raised in Canada and went to high school in a suburb of Toronto. I completed my undergraduate education at Amherst College before moving to NYC to work in the research lab of W. Ian Lipkin for 3 years. While building my research portfolio to help bolster my application for medical school, I completed a Masters in Biotechnology at Columbia University before starting medical school at the NYU School of Medicine.
Bachelor's Degree Amherst College
MA, Biotechnology Columbia University
New York, NY
MD from New York University School of Medicine
New York, NY
Tell us about your career path:
After completing medical school, I moved to Boston to complete my internal medicine residency at the Massachusetts General Hospital. I then moved to Baltimore where I am currently finishing up my cardiovascular disease fellowship at Johns Hopkins University. This coming summer I will be in NYC pursuing a one year fellowship in interventional cardiology.
What was the biggest challenge you faced?
The biggest challenge for me as an international student was navigating the various visas needed to work and then finally working to obtain a green card. When I first started working at Columbia University after I graduated from college, I had applied for Optional Practical Training (OPT) to start working but did not have a total plan for how I would continue to work there. Since I was working in a virology lab, I planned to apply for a TN visa at my border crossing at the advice of the international students and scholars office. They helped me prepare my documentation and I went home to visit my mom for the weekend in Toronto and planned to present my documentation on my return. Unfortunately, the officers at the border did not accept that my knowledge and training was “theoretical” enough for my to be working under the TN visa and thus denied my application. I arrived back in NYC with the last few weeks of my OPT. At this point, a petition to USCIS would take too long so my lab graciously offered to sponsor me for a H1-B visa with premium processing and thus within a few weeks I was able to obtain an H-1B visa. Fast Forward to when I am in residency, and I realize that I used almost 3 years of my H1B time before medical school and would use the remaining during my internal medicine residency. I did not have enough H1B time to complete fellowship training. I wasn't planning on getting married to a US citizen anytime soon, so I did not know how I was going to get more work time. I spent days on the internet trying to look into requirements for a green card, and one of my coworkers connected me with his friend, an Indian citizen who had petitioned the government for a green card based on her extraordinary research background. Since I had done more research than her, she encouraged me to investigate it, and after discussing with a lawyer, the lawyer thought that I would be a good applicant. Then I sought recommendation letters from individuals in my field who I had never published with and worked on preparing my application. After more than a year of fees and requests for additional evidence, I finally obtained my green card. It was one of the most challenging processes I have ever had to complete.
What was your most valuable resource during this experience?
When I was at Columbia, the international students and scholars office was very helpful in giving advice. After that the next best resource was learning from other students who had been in your position to find out what they did to get the right visa or a green card.
Any words of advice for other international students?
Once you have a green card, life becomes far less stressful. If you qualify in any way, I would work on getting a green card as soon as you think you qualify.
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