A Man Between Sister Cities
Medical Matters, Lane County Medical Society
Dr. Diman Lamichhane has lived across the United States, in enough places to know that Eugene, Oregon is the place he wants to call home. For him, it’s a “Goldilocks” town: not too small, not too big, just the right size. He likes the diversity that the University of Oregon attracts, the mountains that shape the West Coast, and the general pace of life here. Above all, he likes all of these traits because they remind him of home: Kathmandu, Nepal.
The transition from Nepal to America was challenging. It required first passing the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE), a 4-step test. Lamichhane completed the first two segments in Nepal, where medical education is already taught in English, but there was an international learning curve beyond what was in the textbook.
“There was a big difference between practicing medicine in Nepal compared to America. For example, in Nepal, we did not have any electronic medical records, everything was on paper,” Lamichhane says. “So in the beginning, I didn’t understand how everything could be recorded on a computer.”
In addition to technological obstacles, there were cultural ones as well. “In Nepal, and in most developing countries, the majority of people are not as educated, so doctors make decisions for them. It’s more authoritative. The patient has very little to say,” says Lamichhane. “Here it is so different. You give the patient options, and they choose what is best for them based on the options you give them.”
A defining moment in Lamichhane’s career came when he passed the USMLE and applied for residency. “When I was taking the test in America, I was here on a tourist visa. I couldn’t work. I was living with friends, or staying in hotels,” Lamichhane says. “But when I started residency, I was working, I was getting paid—that felt like a real achievement.”
Once he became licensed to practice in the US in 2005, Lamichhane completed his medical residency in Baltimore, Maryland under a work visa. He obtained a green card for permanent residence as his career progressed, working in states across the eastern US.
The larger cities in which he lived had the diversity that Lamichhane craved, but the traffic alone was difficult to endure. Minot, North Dakota was full of lovely people, but the nearest Asian grocery store was 3 hours away in Fargo. “The drive to the grocery store used to be very boring because the scene did not change, it was always flat, flat, flat,” Lamichhane recalls.
“I like it here much better than in North Dakota. You can even get bamboo shoots here,” Lamichhane says, referring to Sunrise Asian Food Market on W. 29th Avenue.
It was a hopscotch journey across the US before Lamichhane landed here, in none other than Eugene, the sister city to Kathmandu. Lamichhane is member in the Eugene-Kathmandu Sister City Association (EKSCA). He and his family participate in community events, picnics, and dinners hosted by the EKSCA. The annual Dashain Festival, a 15-day lunar celebration, brings everyone in the community together. “We get to meet the friends and family of other doctors,” Lamichhane says, of which there are at least 10 other Nepalese doctors working in Eugene, mainly at the River Bend Hospital. “It’s exciting to meet visiting relatives of friends when they are celebrating Dashain here.”
Lamichhane likes to return to Nepal once a year, but it’s often more convenient for his retired parents to make the trip to the States. While the mountains here pale in comparison to back home, Lamichhane’s visiting family is impressed by the landscape and biodiversity, with trips to Florence to see the ocean—a view that can’t be found in landlocked Nepal.
“The rhododendron you see everywhere here, that is actually the national flower of Nepal,” Lamichhane says. “There are so many more varieties here though. We mainly have red, so any time someone from back home comes to visit, they are always amazed to see so many different colors of rhododendron.”
It has been two years since Lamichhane first arrived in Eugene with his wife, Pratigya, and their 6-month-old daughter, for a position at the Rheumatology Clinic on E. 11th Avenue.
Eugene has the perfect concoction of qualities for an international transplant like Lamichhane. He thrives here, enjoying the work-life balance he has created at his practice. “About a year ago I applied for citizenship,” Lamichhane says. “It was just six months ago that I drove to Portland to take the test. I passed.”