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Chasing the American Dream

Here are two stories from people who believed in their dreams and pursued them for the second time around

So well that Dorantes graduated and was licensed as a doctor in his homeland. But he wanted to practice north of the border, which led to two more years of training through the University of California, Los Angeles International Medical Graduate program. The initiative, created to address California's shortage of bilingual and bicultural doctors, offers a fast-track program to prepare Latin American doctors to become licensed in the United States.

"These are people who have a tremendous amount of drive," says Michelle Anne Bholat, M.D., executive director of the UCLA program, of doctors who participate in the training. Among them, she says, Dorantes stood out as "extraordinary."
Dorantes completed the program, passed his U.S. exams and now, at age 50, awaits an assignment to a three-year residency program, one he hopes will be in a rural California community where bilingual and bicultural doctors are desperately needed. That preference, he says, was influenced by Spanish-speaking patients who told him, "We need people who will listen to what we have to say and understand what we're going through."

From the day of his daughter's birth to the end of his residency, Dorantes's devotion to his dream will span nearly 20 years. "It's been a very difficult road, but in the end, it will pay off," he says. "I feel a sense of pride that I conquered this goal that I set for myself."

Still, the price was higher than just the years and cost of his education. Linda, weary of the all-consuming nature of Dorantes's journey to become a doctor, wants to end their marriage.

"Some people you will always love, but I have to love myself more and need to take care of myself," she says. "The organization of medicine is done in a way that puts families at risk. It's not healthy. [Doctors] don't have a balanced life."

Dorantes acknowledges, "I was pursuing this dream, and there was less time for the family." So it's a bittersweet time for him and his family. But, he explains, "I have a profound love for medicine, and you have to be in love with this profession."

Next: Costs and rewards from restarting at midlife. >>

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