America Needs Immigrant (Doctors)

While anti-immigrant sentiment has become more widespread among many, in medicine it is clear that immigrant physicians play an important role.  This is discussed in a recent NY Times article: Why America Needs Foreign Medical Graduates

The key points:

  1. Foreign medical graduates help fill residency training positions that would otherwise be left vacant.  Their availability helps many hospitals operate.
  2. Foreign medical graduates disproportionately take positions in primary care, accounting for approximately 40% of primary care physicians.
  3. There is evidence that the care of foreign medical graduates is at least as good as physicians who received their medical degrees in the U.S.

An excerpt:

The American system relies to a surprising extent on foreign medical graduates, most of whom are citizens of other countries when they arrive. By any objective standard, the United States trains far too few physicians to care for all the patients who need them. We rank toward the bottom of developed nations with respect to medical graduates per population…

A 2015 study found that almost a quarter of residents across all fields, and more than a third of residents in subspecialist programs, were foreign medical graduates…

 About a quarter of all doctors in the United States are foreign medical graduates.

My take: Physicians from other countries improve the health of our entire country.  In addition, many physicians who train in the U.S. return abroad and help improve health in their home countries.

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Immigrant Doctors Blocked by New Rules Too

With the U.S. government’s heightened emphasis on stopping immigration into the U.S., there have been noted declines in border crossings; however, it is anticipated that there will be billions in lost income in reduced tourism coincident with the implementation of these policies.

Along with the efforts to curb illegal immigration, new related policies may result in a significant decline in foreign medical graduates allowed to stay in the U.S. through expedited processing of H-1B visas.  This is likely to further strain the care available in rural communities.

From CNN Money: What Trump’s latest H-1B Move Means for Workers and Business

An excerpt:

Thousands of doctors from abroad need H-1B visas to continue working in the U.S. after the expiration of their J-1 visas — which permit them to complete a residency program…

Once they complete their residency, physicians can either return to their home country for two years before becoming eligible to reenter the U.S. through a different immigration pathway, such as an H-1B visa, or they can apply for a J-1 visa waiver.

In the last 15 years, H-1B visas have allowed 15,000 foreign doctors to come to American to work in underserved communities.

“The lack of premium processing would mean that there would be a delay for the doctors to start working in the communities they wish to serve, which have a lack of physicians in the first place,” said Ahsan Hafeez, a doctor who is in Pakistan awaiting approval of his H-1B so he can begin working in Arkansas.

From Internal Medicine News: Foreign doctors may lose US jobs after visa program suspension

An excerpt:

Starting April 3, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is temporarily suspending its expedited processing of H-1B visas, a primary route used by highly skilled foreign physicians and students to practice and train in the United States…

In the meantime, many foreign medical students and physicians will lose top training spots and jobs as their H-1B applications linger in the system, said Jennifer A. Minear, a Richmond, Va.–based attorney and national treasurer for the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

“As a practical matter, the percentages of physicians coming into the U.S. who are accepted into residencies or fellowships, those are the top of the top for medical graduates around the world,” Ms. Minear said in an interview. “Most of them who stay afterward wind up working in underserved areas of the United States. It really doesn’t make much sense as a policy matter to create obstacles to attracting those people to the United States that would prevent them from getting here, obtaining U.S. education, and then remaining in the U.S. and providing urgently needed care to populations that would otherwise go without.”

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