The Homecoming: One Physician’s Return to Guam

I was born and raised in Guam and completed high school here. I went to college on the East Coast, as my parents felt I needed to explore the world and learn to be independent. Medical school, residency, and fellowship followed, but after about 10 years of living on the East Coast, I yearned to return home. 

I returned to Guam after fellowship and board exams and dragged my New Yorker husband to Guam. He says he has not stopped sweating since the airplane doors opened! I missed being away from family and was tired of the cold. I still prefer the tropical heat over snow any day! 

Family, Food, & Chicken Kelaguen

Family is truly the center of life in Guam. It’s not unusual for people to regularly spend time with their extended families, and for multiple generations to live under one roof. Kids are always welcome wherever you go. If you don’t have family here, a family will embrace you into theirs, and you’ll forget that you’re not genetically related! 

Food is a must in all family affairs, so hearing “come and eat” or “come neni (baby girl), eat” is a given at any family gathering. The local cuisine is amazingly delicious, and like the people, is a melting pot of different cultures. 

My favorite dishes include Chicken kelaguen—a cold chicken dish made with grilled chicken diced with lots of lemon and coconut and hot peppers, Lumpia (fried spring rolls),  and Pancit (stir-fried noodles). Unfortunately, it also comes with adverse health consequences. I have job security as an endocrinologist!

 

The weather in Guam is what you would expect for a tropical island just north of the equator—it’s hot and humid. There are 2 seasons, rainy and dry, with the most pleasant time of year being from around December to May when the trade winds are blowing, and it’s not too rainy. 

Summer is hot and rainy, but if you wait 5 minutes, the rain will stop. Unless there’s a tropical storm, you can go to the beach almost any day, as it never gets colder than 70 degrees! 

Tokyo, Seoul, and Manila at Your Doorsteps

Guam is a perfect spot for your home base if you enjoy Asia. There are direct flights to multiple cities in Japan, Korea, and the Philippines, all are 3-4 hours away. You can connect to the rest of Asia (and the world) through Tokyo, Seoul, or Manila. 

If the ocean is your draw, the marine life here is incredible, and you can snorkel or dive to your heart’s content or take a diving trip to Palau, Yap, or Chuuk, all a few hours’ flight away. Island fever (like cabin fever) is real, so I plan trips at least once a quarter, even if it’s only for a long weekend. 

If you think you’ll miss the cold (goodness knows my husband does!), some of the best snow in the world is found in Japan for skiing and snowboarding. I am thankful I never have to shovel snow or de-ice my car in the morning, but my kids get to learn to ski while I wait in the warmth of a nice hotel. 

Join us!

Lastly, Guam is very medically underserved. Our island needs more physicians, and you need to be credentialed in the US to practice here, yet we are so far away from the rest of the United States that it’s hard to recruit physicians to our island. That said, some positions at community outreach clinics with the Department of Public Health and Social Services could be eligible for public student loan forgiveness. 

Browse and apply for jobs in Guam here!  

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Dr. Erika Masuda Alford was born and raised in Guam and left the island for her undergraduate degree. She obtained a BS and BA from the University of Pittsburgh before attending New York Medical College for my MD, followed by a residency in Primary Care Internal Medicine at the University of Connecticut and a fellowship in Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Metabolism at Baylor College of Medicine and the UT MD Anderson Cancer Center. She returned home to Guam shortly after fellowship with her husband, Andrew, and they are the proud parents of a son and daughter.

 

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