Tuesday, February 07, 2017

15,000 doctors from travel-ban countries practice in U.S., many in rural and under-served areas

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There are about 15,000 doctors in the U.S. from the seven countries—Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Yemen—targeted by President Trump's travel ban, Donald G. McNeil Jr. reports for The New York Times. Many of them work in rural and under-served areas.

Nearly half—42 percent—of all rural doctor visits are to a foreign-born physician, McNeil reports. "Foreign-born physicians have become crucial to the delivery of medical care in the U.S. They work in small towns where there are no other doctors, in poor urban neighborhoods and in Veterans Affairs hospitals." Dr. Patricia F. Walker, the associate director of the University of Minnesota’s Global Health Pathway, which helps refugee doctors practice in the U.S., said of foreign-born doctors, “They go to the places where graduates of Harvard Medical School don’t want to go."

Each year there are 22 percent more residencies available "than there are American graduates to take them," McNeil writes. "Graduates of foreign medical schools now fill that gap; the largest number come from India, followed by Pakistan, China, the Philippines, Iran and Israel. Many foreign graduates have J-1 visas, which give them about three years to complete their residencies. Foreign-born graduates must return home when their visas expire, but they can get extensions if they agree to work in an area that the Department of Health and Human Services considers 'medically under-served,' which is roughly defined as having less than one primary care doctor for every 3,000 people. Those who practice in an under-served area for several years can apply for green cards."

Andrea Clement, a spokeswoman for The Medicus Firm, which recruits doctors for hard-to-fill jobs, "said that 76 percent of the foreign doctors it placed last year had gone to areas with fewer than 25,000 people or to small to medium-size cities of 25,000 to 500,000," McNeil writes. It placed the most doctors in Wisconsin, followed by California, Texas, Maryland, Oregon, Missouri, Tennessee, Ohio and Arizona.

In Iowa, for example, 172 doctors are from the seven countries subject to the travel ban and 23 percent of the state’s 13,000 practicing doctors were born outside the U.S., Tony Leys reports for The Des Moines Register. Alabama, which has 600 foreign-born doctors, has a program that since 1992 has supplied 27 Syrian doctors to rural and low-income areas, Amy Yurkanin reports for Alabama Media Group.

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