Romanian doctor benefits from special visa program

Associated Press

FAIRMONT, Minn. -- Since he was 14, Dr. Calin Pernes knew he wanted to live in the United States.

"I wanted to come, and I knew I would be here," said Pernes, who is now a physician with Fairmont Medical Center. He was so sure he would become a U.S. resident that he gave his daughter an American name: Patricia.

Pernes, who comes from Romania, got a permanent resident visa through a program of the U.S. government aimed at allowing people in countries with low U.S. immigration to get diversity visas. Pernes said there are about 55,000 of these visas awarded annually with about 3,800 set aside for Romanians.

"They are to encourage immigration," Pernes said. "Now you can fill out the forms on the Internet, but you used to have to fill out a very specific letter. There are some agencies that do it for you for pay."


Pernes started applying each year beginning about 1990. He filled out the detailed letter to enter his chance for the diversity visa, and his wife sent one as well.

"We applied for nine years," he said.

The cost of applying is about $70, which is a lot of money for a Romanian, he said.

Pernes and his family finally won the visas in 1999. He found out about his successful entry while in Atlanta on a temporary visa doing volunteer work at a Veterans Administration hospital.

"We both had visitors' visas, so she came here and looked around, then went back to Romania to take care of paperwork," he said. He then started applying for residencies here in America.

Pernes worked in family practice in his home town in Transylvania. He also worked in family practice in a rural part of Romania and then as an obstetrician/gynecologist until 2000.

Pernes, on staff since July 1, is seeing same-day appointment patients at the medical center, but he will soon be taking his rotation in the emergency department, which is what he was hired for.

"I wanted to do ER because here, ER docs have a very nice schedule," Pernes said. He also likes the hospital's affiliation with the Mayo Clinic, he said.


Working at a rural hospital in America is very different from doing the same thing in Romania, he said.

"There is no X-ray and no reliable EKG machine," he said. "That was in 1990; now it is better, but (basically) you have a blood pressure machine and your stethoscope, that's it."

Romania is a nice country with nice people, Pernes said, but the government is a different story.

"Romania was a Communist country, and I hated that," he said. "I heard that in the '50s, people thought that Communism was good. In the '60s, they saw (it was not)."

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