Monday, September 29, 2008

Visas steer foreign-born physicians to rural areas

Claiborne County, Tennessee, like many rural areas, is struggling with doctor shortages. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Health Resources and Services Administration has deemed many of these communities Professional Shortage Areas, where recruiting doctors is difficult. This status has allowed "foreign-born doctors who were completing post-graduate education in the United States to choose to serve at least three years in Claiborne County instead of returning to their home countries for two years as per normal J-1 'exchange visitor' visa requirements," writes Kristi L. Nelson of the Knoxville News-Sentinel. (Photo by Emily Spence)

In Clairborne County, population 30,000, "there are only 20 doctors," Nelson reports. "Fifteen of them provide primary care, amounting to about one doctor for every 2,000 or so residents. There is one obstetrician/gynecologist. There are three pediatricians. The county hospital has three general surgeons on active staff. . . . Today, about half of the physicians living and practicing in Claiborne County originally came from other countries." (Read more)

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