Expanding on Experience
Internationally trained doctor used classes to switch careers and learn about his new country
Thomas Thurairatnam has lived in many places. Although he is originally from Sri Lanka, he studied to be a medical doctor in India and then worked at Ahmadi Hospital in the State of Kuwait. After his son moved to Canada in 2000, Thomas and his wife came to visit at least twice a year. By 2007, the couple had purchased a house here and, in 2008, they became official residents.
But, even before he made the move, Thomas knew that the registration/certification process that would allow him to work as a doctor in Canada would take more than a decade to play out.
“I didn’t want to spend the end of my career trying to register,” Thomas says. “I wanted to enjoy the rest of my working days. So the choice to switch careers was essentially made for me.”
Determined to stay in the health care field, Thomas found the perfect educational opportunity: the Health Services Management Certificate offered through Continuing Education at George Brown College. Comprised of six courses, the certificate is designed for experienced health care professionals who wish to advance to a managerial role. The focus is on human resources, finances and – ideally for Thomas – information systems.
“Even before I came to Canada, when I was working at Ahmadi Hospital, I did some IT work implementing and customizing clinical application systems,” he says. “I definitely had an interest in that area.”
Although he wanted to start classes right away, Thomas had a very busy schedule. He was already on the Board of Directors of a youth health centre and volunteered with the Canadian Cancer Society. Thankfully, the courses’ evening and weekend schedules offered him the flexibility he needed.
In 2009, he completed Information Systems (now replaced in the certificate by Managing Information Systems). He later followed that up with Human Resources Administration and Canadian Health Care System. But he ended up learning more than just each course’s curriculum.
“Most of my George Brown classmates, though younger, were mid-career or shifting careers like I was,” Thomas remembers. “I talked to them a lot and found out what I needed to do to make myself marketable.”
In fact, interacting with his classmates didn’t just impact his future career; it impacted his whole experience as an immigrant to Canada.
“I learned Canadian phrases and expressions. I learned the differences between the United States and Canada. And I learned about the Canadian way of life and what people do here in their free time – hockey, cottage country, water sports, shovelling. I basically learned how to live here through my classes at George Brown,” he says.
Although Thomas hasn’t yet obtained the certificate, his George Brown courses helped him land a position as an application analyst at Rouge Valley Health System. He is responsible for a number of the modules that run the hospital’s systems and for troubleshooting, customization, training and report development. With the recent arrival of business intelligence software (designed to analyze data to better understand an organization’s strengths and weaknesses), his responsibilities are expanding.
“Our hospital is leading the way,” he explains. “It’s very cutting edge and very interesting, but not many others are embracing it just yet. I’m happy to be a part of it.”
And, while many things have changed for Thomas since his arrival in Canada, many remain the same. He is still busy, he still loves the health care field and he is still interested in furthering his education at George Brown.
“I really enjoyed the classes, so it’s something I want to do,” he says. “My priority is to complete the certificate, but I also want to take French, SQL and database management courses. As soon as possible, I’m there.”