Marwan Sweedan is being honored as a White House Champion of Change for World Refugees.
Reading through the Epic of Gilgamesh one will reach the conclusion that the secret to immortality is embedded in the change that survives one’s death. The change could be a thought or an adventure that produces a good deed that benefits all of human civilization. Inspired by this realization, I was motivated to bring changes to myself and to the community I reside in. I chose to join community service groups which, indeed, is an excellent tool to serve that purpose. The groups I joined serve high-skilled immigrants. We train them, advocate for them, mentor them, and most importantly we are trying to engage them in their local communities and give them the opportunity to impact their communities positively and become shining examples of success.
My story started in August of 2008 when I reached the United States as a refugee with a degree in medicine. I arrived at a time when the recession was at its peak and I faced a significant challenges and stress when attempting to navigate the system alone with no help. I drained all my resources and capabilities trying to make sense of the new system I was now a part of. Later on and with the assistance of Upwardly Global, an organization that helps professional refugees, I managed to find a subsistence job and generate some stability through their advocacy and networking. And with the guidance of Mr. Chris King, my mentor, I started to understand the system and my new environment. I pushed my way through struggles trying to unlock my potential and gain a medical license and be able to practice in the U.S. and advance in my education. Searching for methods to achieve my goals I realized that many if not all immigrant doctors like myself face similar issues.
I reached out to Upwardly Global and Global Talent Idaho (GTI), and I suggested these organizations start a task force to resolve matters of immigrant doctors and they responded to my call. Joined by GTI, Upwardly Global, family and members of the local community, I launched the task force. We call it GT-DOC. Its mission is to help medically underserved communities by increasing their access to better health practice via well trained immigrant doctors who are willing to practice in such areas. We started to network and reach out to a variety of resources.
I tried to juxtapose the obstacles that the immigrant doctors face in the U.S. and the needs of the local community to health providers so as to generate reasonable solutions that address both issues. The biggest challenge GT-DOC is facing so far (and all the refugees as well) is the bureaucracy and the rigidity of the system that constrains refugees’ ability to be productive and innovative. Soon, I realized that these immigrant doctors’ problems were part of larger challenges. So, I started to organize the immigrant community, including by bringing together specific groups to be able to define their needs, challenges, and solutions. My next step was to reach out to community leaders to present their problems and offer potential solutions.
Promoting such cooperation and development in a community is difficult work. Sometimes we succeed and establish what we are hoping for; and most of the time we fail, but never stop trying. I learned by joining such efforts that perhaps we will not experience the change in our lifetime but the generations to come may benefit from that change. My efforts may inspire others to change and pass it to others and so on. That is the butterfly effect I am seeking, and that's how development happens. I always looked upon this nation as the symbol of change in this world. Thus, I am honored that the White House and all that it represents recognized me as a Champion of Change.
Marwan Sweedan is an advocate for GTI, a partner with Upwardly Global, and co-founder of GT-DOC a task force that help immigrant doctors to return to practice in USA.