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 "Boston Herald" - Bulgarian doc making American dream come true

"Boston Herald" - Bulgarian doc making American dream come true

4/10/2007 12:32:59 PM

Dr. George Dimov, pictured with wife Magdalena and son Daniel, worked his way back to a medical career in America.


By Joe Fitzgerald
Boston Herald Columnist

Monday, April 9, 2007 - Updated: 01:45 AM EST

Frank Conahan, while delighted with the work of his young assistant, George Dimov, remembers being stunned when the latter pulled him aside one day to ask if he would recommend him for an internship.
“He was like an aide, bringing patients in and out of rooms, something kids can do after six months of school,” Conahan, a physician with a thriving practice in Norwood, explained. “Though he appeared to be much more advanced than that level, I still couldn’t believe what I was hearing. So I said, ‘George, that’s a big step; how could I possibly do that?’ And that’s when he told me, ‘Actually, I am a doctor.’ ”

Dimov then related a remarkable story.
He had been a general practitioner in Plovdiv, the second-largest city in Bulgaria, where his wife, Magdalena, enjoyed a career as a dentist.
“But Bulgaria is not America,” Dimov said. “I had read about America in books, seen it in the movies, and knew it was a magnet for people from all over the world. I loved the American spirit, the ultimate freedom, the ultimate opportunities you have here. But because we were a Communist country, it was not possible for us to leave. So America was just a dream.”
Then Communism collapsed and a lottery system was instituted, allowing winners to emigrate.
“In 1998 I won a green card, allowing me to take my wife and our son, Daniel, who was 3, to America,” Dimov said. “It was very hard saying goodbye; in fact, we cried, leaving for a world we really knew nothing about, except that it was a land where dreams came true.
“We arrived in Tampa in 1999 with five bags of clothes and $2,000 my mother gave us from her savings. Neither of us spoke a word of English and we knew our credentials would not be accepted. Yet arriving here was one of the best days of my life.”
He began washing dishes, busing tables, working in a factory, “and we both got jobs at a nursing home where we changed diapers and gave baths to old people.”
With his first check he purchased a textbook on anatomy.
“It took me 14 hours to read six pages,” he recalls. “I found more than 500 words I did not understand, though the medical terms were familiar because they come from Latin. I was basically learning the language by studying, and by the time I finished my 10th book my English had improved significantly.”
Magdalena threw herself into studying, too, and by 2002 was accepted at BU. So they packed up and came to Boston, where George found work delivering pizzas while continuing to pound the books at home.
“But I thought I should be associated with the medical field,” he said. “So when I found Dr. Conahan was looking for an assistant, I applied, but I told him I was hoping to become a nurse, never mentioning I was a physician in Bulgaria. I was afraid he’d be concerned I might start talking to patients, discussing their medications and treatments, which is not how it’s done in this country.”

 

He stayed with Conahan for two years while Magdalena studied full-time at dental school.

Today, at 37, she’s practicing in Portsmouth, N.H.
And George, 38, known as Georgui in his native land, is wrapping up a residency in Augusta, Maine, closing in on his dream of becoming a doctor in America.
In the meantime he became a U.S. citizen.
“I’ve been a physician for 30 years,” Conahan, 60, mused. “And I have to ask myself, if our country ever got turned upside down, would I be able to go to a foreign country, not speaking a word of its language, and start all over again, beginning with the most menial jobs? That’s what these two professionals did, reminding me of how much we take for granted.”
Dimov, however, figured he was just doing what needed to be done.
“I love Bulgaria, and part of me will always be Bulgarian,” he said. “Though it was devastated by the Communists, it’s a beautiful country. But America is paradise, as long as you’re willing to work, study and learn the language. And you need a little luck, too.
“That’s me, a very lucky guy.”
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