With most Indian doctors in Toronto driving taxis because of non-recognition of their degrees, few have established themselves in their medical profession in Canada. But Amritsar-born physician Birinder Ahluwalia has made it to the very top of his trade, with his BSA Diagnostic Medical Imaging Centre in Toronto rated as one of the biggest and best in this country.
"Last year, we treated a record 70,000 patients and the numbers will be even higher this year. I don't know of any other medical centre in Canada treating more patients than us," Ahluwalia, who is equally well known in cultural circles as one of the founders of the city's Spinning Wheel Film Festival, said in an interview.
For his professional and cultural accomplishments, he was chosen among the top 25 immigrant achievers and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper invited him to accompany him to India in 2009.
"It was so kind of the Prime Minister to invite me to India. Since we are one of the largest medical centres in Canada, they thought it fit to invite me. Maybe I was included because Canada and India also to increase medical tourism," said the alumnus of Amritsar Medical College where his illustrious father Balbir Singh Ahluwalia also taught.
Like all immigrants, Ahluwalia too began his life at the bottom after reaching Toronto in 1985.
"Yes I was a qualified doctor from India, but I started here as a courier boy. But that didn't last long as I made quick moves, becoming assistant to the chief of the RDS Diagnostics as well as training as a diagnostic imaging specialist," he recalled.
Luckily for him, diagnostic imaging was just taking off and the young Indian saw a huge opportunity in this field.
"I set up a small facility under the name of BSA Diagnostic Imaging Centre in 1989 and have not looked back since. We have grown many times over to become one of the biggest in Canada. I was lucky to enter this field at the right time and become financially successful very quickly," Ahluwalia said.
With Toronto earning the dubious distinction of having more immigrant doctors turned taxi drivers than any city in the world, Ahluwalia is angry about the the plight of his fellow professionals.
"Canada is making its system inaccessible to foreign trained doctors on the false grounds that their skills may not be up to Canadian standards. It is bigotry. I have hired more foreign trained professionals and we have become one of the best diagnostic centres in Canada. I tell these people: put immigrant doctors through 6-12 months of training, and they will be wonderfully okay," he said.