I continue to visit medical and dental clinics in Prague, as required by my Washington superiors. The purpose is to know options for care that are most in line with our American medical philosophy. This information benefits Americans who work here in an official capacity as well as visiting Americans who call the consular office for our list of medical consultants. I’ve had the opportunity to hear interesting stories along the way, and I frequently find the unexpected.
From 1948 to 1989, the Czechs were under a communist political system. One practitioner I know completed his medical education in Prague in the late 1960s and then defected to the west, eventually ending up in Canada, where he practiced for more than 20 years. He returned to Prague a few years ago to work and reclaim the home of his youth. His story is fascinating as he tells of his struggle to learn English, pass the medical examinations required in Canada and begin a life completely cut off from the rest of his family, who remained in what was then Czechoslovakia. He made huge sacrifices to live a life free of political domination.
I met a physician born in the United States to Czech parents, who defected from communism. He completed his medical education around the time the Czech Communist Party was abolished and decided to come to the Czech Republic to help build the new medical system. He has spent the last 20 years with his foot in both societies. He has a practice in Prague and maintains an attending staff position at an Ivy League teaching hospital in the United States, working at the U.S. location several times a year. Medical residents from the U.S. program have the opportunity to rotate through a linked curriculum he administers in Prague for an overseas study semester.
My young dentist in Prague is an American who married a Czech woman. They met in the United States, where they married, lived and worked but, when their child was born, they decided to move to the Czech Republic to be near her parents. His story is equally interesting because it is the reverse tale. Although he wasn’t escaping a totalitarian government, he did have to learn Czech—a very difficult language—to pass the certifying and licensing examinations. In fact, he was the first English-speaking dentist to achieve licensing in the Czech Republic. And, of course, he had to adapt to a very different medical environment. He has great stories to tell about his experiences; in fact, they all do. Meeting these interesting people and hearing their histories is one of the most interesting parts of my job.
For Reflections on Nursing Leadership, published by the Honor Society of Nursing, Sigma Theta Tau International.