America’s Need for Immigrant Physicians

In the US healthcare system, immigrant physicians play a crucial role that must not be overlooked by the United States. About one-fourth of America’s physicians have studied medicine in another country and have brought their skills to the US. Indeed, America has continually allowed foreign doctors to practice medicine in the US, and this is more important now than ever.

After the completion of a residency program under a J-1 visa, an immigrant doctor can choose one of two options if he or she desires to practice medicine in the US.

  1. He or she can go home for two years and come to the US under a different visa such as an H-1B visa.
  2. If he or she makes a 3-year commitment to serve underserved communities in need of medical attention, then he or she can apply for a Conrad 30 J-1 visa waiver. 

Rural populations that are underserved desperately need medical personnel. Immigrant physicians fill this gap in US healthcare because they are willing to serve these communities provided that they are allowed to stay in the United States. Surprisingly, many of these immigrant doctors studied medicine in Libya, Somalia, Iran, Sudan, Syria, and Yementhe countries targeted by Trump’s new travel ban.  A published report by Harvard and MIT reveals that immigrant doctors from the above countries set up 14 million doctors’ appointments each year. In Michigan alone, they set up 1.2 million appointments. This underscores their vital contributions to the US healthcare system and hints that the administration may be taking these facts for granted as the administration continues to shape their immigration policy.

By the year 2030, the 65+ population will be significantly higher than it is today (almost 20 million greater). With the increase in this population and the continued need for doctors to serve underserved communities, the constant influx of immigrant doctors is a necessity in the United States. The administration must recognize this and look for ways to ensure a constant flow of immigrant physicians. They must not create policies that leave doctors questioning whether they will be permitted to re-enter the United States. Imagine if an immigrant doctor has an emergency surgery in Michigan, but he or she has to face complications entering the US. What message does this send to the immigrant doctors who simply want to contribute to the productivity of the US healthcare system? We urge the government to consider this question.

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Sources:
  1. "Immigrant physicians: Why are they vital for U.S. healthcare?" Medical News Today. MediLexicon International, 05 July 2017. Web. 06 July 2017.

     

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