Dr. Julian Lildharrie studied for his medical degree abroad, where international medical graduates comprise 40% of New York’s entire doctor workforce.
Lildharrie, 34, who grew up in Norwood and resides in Pelham Bay, is currently an internal medicine resident at St. John’s Riverside Hospital in Yonkers. He did his undergrad at City College of New York, a master’s degree at Stony Brook and his medical education at St. George’s University in Grenada.
In 2013, Lildharrie was among 20 New York City students who received scholarships totaling $2.4 million to attend St. George’s University School of Medicine under the first year of the CityDoctors scholarship program. In return, the students committed to give back to their communities by practicing primary care medicine at a New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation (HHC) hospital after receiving their medical degrees.
“Studying abroad gave me the focus and privilege to treat people in an area that [don’t] have access to resources,” Lildharrie said.
Lildharrie was first exposed to the medical field when he volunteered at the Children’s Hospital at Montefiore (CHAM) while he was a student at Fordham Prep. At CHAM, he played video games with kids and tried to normalize their stay there as much as possible. Lildharrie also leaned that there are various roles in medicine.
“I thought all doctors were family practice doctors,” he said. “Those volunteer activities were a big part of who I was.”
Prior to volunteering, Lildharrie had dreams of playing for the New York Yankees, being a cop or teacher. But he soon knew the medical field was his calling.
His path in life changed while obtaining his master’s degree in physiology and biophysics at Stony Brook University. It was there where he saw an ad for the City Doctor’s program at St. George’s University and was immediately intrigued because his family is West Indian.
So, after receiving the scholarship, Lildharrie uprooted his life to Grenada, where he spent two years studying. He enjoyed his time abroad, minus one small thing.
“It was entirely worth it, but they don’t have bodegas there,” he said.
During that time, he also got engaged to his wife Devi, a health care professional with Weill Cornell Medicine/NYP, who has played a major role in his career.
“We have known each other since our teenage years,” the doctor said. “She most definitely encouraged me to enter medicine as it is a long and arduous journey with many opportunities to forgo becoming a physician. She always pushed me to follow through with my mother’s guidance to learn more.”
He did his last two years of medical school at Lincoln Hospital in the South Bronx and will finish his residency at St. John’s Riverside in June 2022.
According to Lildharrie, nothing in his training at St. George’s or Lincoln could have prepared him for the turmoil, devastation and death that the COVID-19 pandemic brought.
“It often felt like a horror film or movie,” he said. “Medicine is medicine and there are standards of care. But with COVID all of that went out the window. A lot of the time it felt like we were putting out fires.”
However, the one bright spot was seeing the massive food donations by restaurants and residents to the hospital.
The doctor remembered seeing his first COVID case in March 2020 and then boom, it felt like everyone was in the hospital clinging to life on a respirator. In one of the early days of the pandemic, an Uber driver who drove the National Guard when there was a COVID-19 outbreak in New Rochelle, arrived in the hospital sick.
“I am downstairs all geared up and there’s a guy who is an Uber driver and he’s shouting I can’t breathe,” Lildharrie said. “He said doctor, I did what I could, please do your part now.”
Looking ahead, Lildharrie knows that the toughest part of his career is likely behind him. Now, thanks to his education in Grenada and the influence of his dad, Clarence and late mom, Sandra, he is ready to help people for years to come.
“It’s definitely a privilege to be in the position I’m in,” the doctor said. “She’d (his mom) tell me if you had an opportunity to learn to do anything, do it.”
Reach Jason Cohen at email@example.com or (718) 260-4598. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes.