An Ottawa agency is helping foreign-trained doctors find jobs in the medical field after cuts to a government-run program that used to help the new immigrants transfer their skills to Canada's health-care system.

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Fareeq Samim has to support a family of five, which means he can't go back to complete almost a decade of education re-learning how to be a doctor. (Laurie Fagan/CBC)

The Catholic Immigration Centre of Ottawa says the program cuts came in the most recent budgets for the Ontario and federal governments. But the need for training and skills development is still there, the centre says, with about 800 foreign-trained doctors in Ottawa alone who have not been licensed to practise in Canada.

So the centre's job developers are even busier now in their dedication to helping these trained professionals in their job search, as well as adjusting to cultural differences in the workplace.

Farouq Samim is one of the most recent graduates of the program. Samim was a trauma doctor in Afghanistan who also recently completed a master's degree in Ottawa.

Tough lessons to accept

Supporting a family of five, Samim said he does not have enough time or money to restart medical school in Canada.

That means he has had to come to terms with a new career in the medical field, which he trains for with skills learned at the Catholic centre.

"Basically, the program makes us recognize ourselves," Samim said, "For me, I didn't know about some of my transferable skills."

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Bonita Varga says value-added skills will be important for the program graduates to add their expertise to the Canadian health-care system. (Laurie Fagan/CBC)

He has improved his skills in conducting research and other related skills in the medical field, Samim said.

The lessons taught in the Ottawa program are not easy to instil in foreign-trained doctors, though, according to one job developer. Many of those coming to Canada want to practise what they have learned in their home countries.

The adaptation can be an arduous process.

"It's harder to just say, 'OK, take off that MD hat and put on a different hat.'  It's not fair and it's really frustrating for them," said Bonita Varga, who helps teach the doctors at the Catholic Immigration Centre of Ottawa.

New perspective

But Wen Qin, an endocrinologist — a doctor who studies human glands and hormones — from Shanghai has tried to take positives out of her new life in Canada.

She has also learned new transferable research skills, as well as figuring out more about her life goals.

"I don't value it as how famous you are or how much money you have, but my inner peace and inner happiness," said Wen, who also just completed a PhD in endocrinology.

Both Qin and Samim are currently searching for jobs in the medical field.