By Lauren Mills
Pragna Kodali, a physician recruitment summer student, and her father and medical resident, Dr. Sunil Kodali, are on the same page when it comes to what is important in life: They believe in doing whatever it takes to keep a family together, building community, celebrating diversity and remaining patient and positive while striving to achieve their career goals.
Originally from India, the Kodali family consists of Pragna, her mother and father who are both physicians and her younger brother, Krish. In 2014, Pragna arrived in Halifax to attend Dalhousie University, where she graduated with a Bachelor of Science and minor in economics. While she spent the first year in Halifax on her own; in 2015, she was happy to welcome her mother and brother.
“My dad was still working in Kuwait until 2019,” recalls Pragna. “He would visit us every few months. It was really hard to wait until we saw him again, so his visits were always cherished.”
A nuclear medicine specialist, Dr. Kodali applied to Dalhousie’s International Medical Graduates (IMG) Clerkship program to continue his medical practice and join his family in Nova Scotia. The program admits two qualified IMGs into clerkship (third and fourth-year medical students) each year at Dalhousie Medical School. Upon successful completion of the program, participants become eligible to pursue residency training and acquire licensure to practice medicine in Nova Scotia.
Dr. Kodali’s first application in 2018 was not successful, but the following year, he patiently applied again. This time, his delayed permanent residency status saw him denied again. When he applied to the program a third time, Dr. Kodali was temporarily wait-listed before his successful admission to the program in 2020.
“We call it our pandemic surprise," says Pragna. “The miracle we’d been hoping for after a long road getting there.”
On her own career path, Pragna recently completed a Master of Public Affairs degree at Indiana University. This summer, she is working as an intern within the physician recruitment team at Nova Scotia Health.
“It feels like life has come full circle. As a family, we’ve been really invested in international physician recruitment. Now that I get to see from the inside the challenges involved, I appreciate even more how my dad was able to be recruited and that he didn’t have to give up his career as a medical professional to live and work here in Nova Scotia.”
Upon graduation from medical school at Dalhousie University, Dr. Kodali was eager to start his residency training in family medicine. While working In Kuwait, in addition to nuclear medicine, he participated in an organization that provides healthcare and other social services to Indian communities. “I discovered I enjoy family medicine. That experience made it easier in my residency application to explain my positive attitude about becoming a family medicine practitioner,” he said.
Dr. Kodali credits his medical school classmates with helping him hone his information technology skills. In addition, he expresses appreciation for the communication skills he has acquired. “There are many things that you should learn to become a proper Canadian doctor, like how to talk to people, how to address their concerns in a proper way and how to show compassion and empathy. All doctors have medical knowledge for treating patients and prescribing medication. It’s important for international physicians to understand the importance of communication skills so they are more receptive to this part of the training.”
With more than a year of residency training under his belt, Dr. Kodali’s enthusiasm for family medicine has not abated. He is currently training in Yarmouth, while his family (including the family dog) remain at home in Bedford. Dr. Kodali says he is enjoying the “fantastic” weather and introducing people to Indian food. “I invite all my friends. They love Indian food and I try to teach them how to eat healthy, especially vegan and vegetarian dishes so they learn how to maximize their protein intake.”
Dr. Kodali has made a point in choosing electives that expose him to life in all four health zones. “I want to get to know Nova Scotia and the people in each of the health zones. So far, it’s been a great experience,” he says.
Father and daughter have sage advice for international physicians thinking about practicing medicine in Nova Scotia. Out of his own experience, Dr. Kodali emphasizes the importance of doing a lot of groundwork before applying in terms of academic, legal and financial matters relevant to each individual case. Pragna encourages the doctors she has met through physician recruitment to start building a network of contacts while working on admission to whatever physician training program they are eligible to apply for.
“There are many research and volunteer positions in Nova Scotia Health, for example. Staying active and connected in those ways will help with building the patience and persistence required to eventually enter the appropriate training programs.”
The Kodali family is happy to call Nova Scotia home and Nova Scotia is better for the addition of these vibrant and outgoing physicians and their family, the next generation of Nova Scotia’s working professionals.