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Learning to Practice Medicine, Again

Fall 2010 | Archives

A Doctor in His Homeland, Student Works to Practice in Nebraska

Salomon Campaore

By achieving the right U.S. credentials, medical professionals like Salomon Compaore will be able to bridge the linguistic and cultural gap between doctors and patients.

As a young boy, Salomon Compaore wanted to be an English teacher one day—he was the best in his class. In his final years of high school, however, he decided to become a doctor. "I wanted to be someone who is able to help people who are suffering," he said.

Compaore attended eight years of medical school and became a doctor in Burkina Faso, a West African country about the size of Colorado. Working in three clinics, he treated patients for illnesses like malaria, respiratory infections or diarrhea.

Now 29, Compaore is again pursuing medical education far away from his home town. Two years ago, he was awarded one of the few permanent resident visas available through the U.S. visa lottery. He felt new doors would open to him in America. "I knew the U.S. was a country of a lot of opportunity," he said. He landed in Omaha in January 2009 to live with his brother. A few months later, he was in an MCC advisor's office to get a waiver for an intermediate level anatomy course—did he really have to take the basic prerequisite? He was, after all, a doctor.

The surprised advisor enrolled him in the class. She also told him about Project Bridge. After meeting with Program Manager Victoria N. Nakibuuka-Muli, Compaore now has a plan to practice medicine again, although the process will take years. First, he needs vocational English to shore up his fluency and learn about U.S. healthcare systems. Then, he will take certified nursing assistant classes and phlebotomy. Later, he will work toward entering a Physician's Assistant program and, eventually, medical school.

By entering Omaha's healthcare workforce, Compaore will be able to serve the 100-plus immigrant Burkinabés living in the area, among others. He will be able to understand their history, culture and context in a more profound way than American-born doctors. "If we can get Salomon practicing medicine, we can bridge that gap to care for French-speaking immigrants and people from Ghana, Togo and Burkina Faso," Nakibuuka-Muli said.

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