Landing that coveted postdoc position in United States is a dream come true for most of us .The time from getting that appointment letter in your email to the moment you walk into your lab and become a part of the elite team of scientists all goes in a blur – and why not??? There is so much to do, so much to plan and prepare before the big move. And all the time that we spend in working through the piles of official paper work to get that visa approved , in our mind we are already planning the take-off of our scientific project.
But paper work does not end there – the first day at your new job goes in a whirl wind of international scholar orientations and more paper work explaining your rights, your insurance coverage – all things that will help legalize your stay in United States while we follow your passion to explore the world of complex and path breaking scientific research.
Like most of us I don’t think twice before signing the dotted lines given by my university – they are just part of the protocol that has to be followed to become an international scholar and for most of us that is the last we see of all the paperwork. We go right ahead to assimilate ourselves into our new workplace, new cultural diversity and of course our scientific project.
But for some of us, life has other plans and those signatures on the dotted lines come back to haunt us. This is especially true for medical documents since your medical care is truly been taken care of by your employer. I wonder how many of us remember signing the document that stated our rights to Worker’s Compensation.
Now wait a minute- did you just say Worker?? We hear of stories where worker’s have received compensation while being hurt on work but us researchers work in state of the art labs with failsafe safety protocols and technologically advanced equipment in place that precludes all such possibilities. And yet accidents happen, for most of us don’t think twice before dealing with radioactivity, biohazards or corrosive chemicals as part of our research requirement. And it is a hard earned personal lesson that it is good to be aware of your rights than having to deal with it through a haze of pain and shock on a hospital bed.
It was late afternoon on a Friday -everyone was preparing for their weekend to start and I had stepped outside my building to take a phone call from a friend on East Coast. One moment I was happily chatting on the phone and the next –WHAM!! – it felt like I had been hit by a race car in my face.- it was an errant golf ball from the adjacent golf course that had made contact with my right eye. The next 24 hours rank amongst the darkest hours of my life as I was taken to the emergency ward for a quick CT scan to check for fracture and brain bleeding with doctor’s throwing out medical terms at me trying to explain the savage nature of my trauma and the possibility that I might not regain my full eyesight. And through all these I had only one question – will I be able to see? I had never appreciated the gift of sight like in those first few days when I was threatened to be left without it. I suddenly realized given a second chance all I wanted to do was finish that book I was reading or look into my 5 month old daughter’s face and memorize every details of her smile.
But what frustrated me more were the persistent question by the hospital administration as to whether it was a work-related injury and was this hospital affiliated with the Worker’s Insurance to be able to treat me. To be honest before that moment I had never really given a thought to what classifies as worker place injury or which hospital my institute was affiliated with. Turns out I was lucky since my regular hospital was also the one that my institute had ties to regarding such incidents and I was able to get immediate treatment that saved the loss of my eye.
More phone calls would follow, from the HR department explaining my rights to work comp medical treatment to the Work Comp Insurance Claim Adjustor assigning a medical investigator to validate my story before they could pay for my medical care.
Now, 2 months later as I come to terms with partial vision loss, a blown pupil that will never work and “ new normalcy” of my life – , I still look back to those initial days following injury when I was struggling to decipher the correct method o obtain proper medical care to save my eye in addition to dealing with the panic that comes with such life-changing events.
So when ClubSciWri approached me pen a life–changing event of my life I decided to share my two pence with all my international scholar friends out there
- By Law all of us are entitled to Worker’s Compensation Insurance for injury happening at our work place. – Work Place Injury covers all injury sustained on campus even if it was not directly related to your bench work
- The Worker Compensation Insurance will most probably be different from your regular insurance provided by your employer, so be aware of it and also the hospital affiliated with it to save paying more your own pocket as your regular insurance will not cover your treatment once they figure out it was a work place related injury. For a life threatening injury you can of course go the closest ER and that is covered
- The compensation bargain precludes your right to sue your employer negligence or punitive damages in exchange for your employer paying for your medical care –so don’t dream of winning a lottery like they show in the movies
- You are also entitled to time-off and partial payment of your wages by the Work Comp Insurance as you recover.
- You are also entitled to chose your own doctor if you believe that he/she can provide the best care and you should stand firm on your decision-donot let the insurance company badger you into going with their choice of doctor if you are not satisfied.
- Since the insurance company is also in a money-making business, be prepared to harassed by private investigator who will be sent in to verify the incident and in general prevent Work Comp misuse.
- In case you end up with some sort of permanent disability you are entitled some form of compensation and even payment for your future treatment from the same insurance
- And lastly, but most importantly keep your PI in the loop about your condition so that he can accommodate you with your restricted work requirements in case things don’t get back to normal and you don’t end up losing your visa that you worked so hard for.
So I miss enjoying the sunshine without the protection of a sunshades, miss working on the microscope or reading my favorite novel long into the night- but I am glad that I have regained back the power of eyesight enough to carry on working on my passion.
About the Author:
I am a biochemist and molecular biophysicist by profession involved in cross-disciplinary research involving biophysical, molecular biology and genetic approaches. Currently employed as a postdoctoral fellow at Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla, California. We use high throughput functional genomics to understand the role of DNA damage repair pathway in preventing genomic instability following chronic exposure to Chromium under the mandate of the Superfund Initiative. I had started out as a chemistry student who completed her Masters (with Organic Chemistry Honors) from Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur India in 2006. I joined IISc, Bangalore in 2006 in the Department of Molecular Biophysics under the guidance of Prof. Dipankar Chatterji. I completed my PhD in 2012 and moved to US for my postdoctoral training.
Image source: Pixabay
This work by ClubSciWri is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.