The Alumni Interview: Asif Halimi, MD

This month we spoke to Asif Halimi, MD, class of 2012.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

My name is Asif Halimi. I am originally from Afghanistan. 15 years ago my family moved to Stockholm Sweden. I studied 9th grade and gymnasium (10-12th) in Stockholm. After that I worked as a laboratory assistant for 2 years while I was trying to get admission in to Medicine. Finally, I decided to study medicine in Hungary so I started the English Medical Program in 2006 and graduated in 2012.


What made you decide to study Medicine?

As many of the medical students will say; and as cliché as it sounds, I would say that as a kid I wanted to become a doctor, ophthalmology was especially interesting for me. During high school I tried different work options during the summer holidays or even as part time job. I did anything from working in McDonalds to washing dishes to office work and finally research. All this time my passion and desire for Medicine got reinforced and grew even more. At some point I was considering entering into the research field but I chose Medicine because I’d be able to help someone and get a fast response, compared to lab-research where your results are seen first after several years.

Why Hungary?

Well it was a mere coincidence that I ended up in Hungary. I was applying to medical programs in Poland first since they had different advertisement. Before that, I didn’t even know Hungary existed; I have always been bad in geography. In the last minute I found an information session at the Hungarian embassy in Stockholm. Before I knew it I was sitting at the entrance exam. I chose Szeged just because Szeged was highest in rankings amongst other Hungarian medical universities and had cheaper tuition fee.

Where do you currently work?

I currently work in surgery and I am doing my residency, I have 3 years left of a 5 years program.

Why did you choose this field?

I chose this field just because I wanted to work in an operating field. Obstetrics & Gynecology being my 2nd option and orthopedics as last option. I decided this after all the summer practices, the 6th year rotations and also due to the responses I got during my practices.

How is the working environment?

The work environment is good. I am happy, I chose a small hospital as I get more responsibilities and the chance to develop faster. Also another advantage is that it’s a small a hospital meaning that the surgery department is still broad and not so subspecialized like bigger university hospitals. Colleagues are helpful and it is a friendly work environment.

How well do get by on your salary?

In Sweden salaries are standardized with little differences between colleagues. Some differences exist between different fields for example psychiatry and GP. I do fine with the salary I get, but of course you have higher salary in the UK or USA.

How is the workload?

The workload is good and very much dependent on your own pace. Usually the toughest part is the first year since everything is new. But I put in extra hours; which I got paid for, to advance faster in the practical part of my field. With extra hours, I mean staying longer at work just because there was an emergency operation starting when I was supposed to be finished for the day.

10805310_10152823145065630_1910949220_nHow well did your university studies prepare you?

I was well prepared. Generally medical students from Hungary are known to be good in theoretical aspects, especially in subjects like anatomy, pathology and pathophysiology. However what we usually lack is the practical part. But this again depends on us and as students we should fill the gaps by putting extra effort during the summer practices and the 6th year rotations.

What skills where you missing, wishing you had?

More practices.

Do you wish you had done something different during your university years?

No. There was not much room for changes due to the setup we had.

What skills were most critical in your success?

Anatomy and pathology practices. Surgical elective courses in combination with summer practices and 6th year rotations.

Any words of wisdom and advice to students trying to decide where and what to work with?

As to where to work, it’s hard to answer since there are different factors here. Some of these factors could be a boyfriend/girlfriend or a spouse, previous visits or maybe just a dream of living in a specific city/country. But in any case, try to find out information about the country where you want to go to and do as many practices as possible in that country so you get used to the system/laws and regulations. That’s when you will find out if it’s for you.

As to what field to choose, I would say first question is operative or non-operative field or something in between (my own classification: radiologist or anesthesiologist where you have some interventions). Of course you can further narrow down your choice during your practices. Other things you might take in consideration are the possibilities or availabilities of a position in a certain field in the country you want, for example surgery in USA.

I also recommend that you find out about the different tasks each field has, as there are different variations in different countries. For example, endoscopic examinations (gastroscopy and colonoscopy) in Hungary are done by Gastroenterologists, who belongs to Internal Medicine, whilst in Sweden both Gastroenterologists and Surgeons do Gastroscopy and Colonoscopy, the difference being the indication (IBS/IBD vs. acute bleedings and tumors).

Thank you Asif for this lovely interview, we are sure it will be very helpful for a lot of future medical graduates! We hope to see you again back in Szeged next year in September for the 30th Anniversary of the English Language Program! 

The Alumni Team