Importing Foreign Doctors No Solution for Ongoing Healthcare Crisis

The following blog was provided by a public health professional in Washington, DC, in response to a March 7th article that appeared in the New York Times.

It is expensive to produce doctors. It is a significant investment by both the individual pursuing a medical degree and our government to help subsidize their education and residency training. It is also difficult to become a doctor. Fewer than half (43% in 2012) of those who apply to medical school in the U.S. each year are accepted. If you are lucky enough to be admitted to a U.S. medical school, you face four years of school, a mountain of debt, and competition for a limited number of residency spots.

In this climate of heated competition for medical school admissions and even with the opening of several new medical schools, we are still not producing enough doctors to keep pace with population growth, much less the predicted physician shortage of 150,000 to 200,000 over the next 20 years. This shortage is most acute within primary care, an area where foreign doctors are becoming increasingly more common. With the passage of healthcare reform and the retirement of the “baby boomer” generation from the healthcare workforce and into the age where healthcare utilization increases, we are facing a legitimate crisis.

Increasingly, graduates of U.S. medical schools are competing for residency spots, which are subsidized by U.S. taxpayers, with non-citizens who completed medical school outside the U.S. In 2010, 13% of residents were foreign graduates of foreign medical schools. As the number of non-U.S. citizens filling residencies increases, we are not only “stealing” these doctors from foreign countries but we are taking away opportunities from U.S. citizens. This constant importing of foreign doctors deters our own citizens from becoming doctors AND discourages the U.S. government from investing in domestic medical education.

U.S. medical schools, for their part, are hesitant to increase enrollment without a corresponding increase in the number of residencies. They do not want to produce doctors who are unable to find work because they are not placed in one of a finite number of residencies, which are primarily funded by Medicare and capped by Congress.

We need to produce more doctors and importing foreign medical school graduates is not a long term solution. We cannot rely on foreign countries to produce our doctors for us and then flood the market with those willing to work for less. The best and brightest from our own country will stop pursuing medicine and create an unsustainable workforce in an area where it is necessary to attract our top minds. By increasing the number of U.S. medical school slots, as well as residencies, and incentivizing U.S. medical school graduates to pursue primary care, we can begin to move our healthcare system in the right direction without resorting to attracting foreign doctors away from developing countries.

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  1. avatar

    In my opinion, Foreign Medical Schools can be part of a solution for this problem. If they offer a good program, they can be a great opportunity for students that want to be a doctor, as well as a way for the US to get more doctors. I am about to begin at a Caribbean medical school called UMHS St. Kitts, and, from what I have seen and heard, their program offers an educational experience equivalent to any US school and really prepare their students for a career as a doctor.

  2. avatar

    Chiropractors are not doctors, they are glorified masseuse. If I crack my back I will not cure my blood pressure.
    I’d like to know the level of education of the people that post here, it seems like you unanimously disagree with foreign doctors, so what are you doing to improve the situation ? Did you study medicine?
    For the people that assume that foreign doctors are poorly trained think about this, in every other country in the world medicine. Is 6 years + unlike the 8 years here. The automatic hick response is “that’s why we have the best docs”. I’d like to inform Jethro, that the US; although it spends more than double of the nearest country when it comes to healthcare it isn’t even in the top 10 list.
    I find it unsulting that any ignorant will open his mouth dish out harsh comments about things that they don’t know nor have the brain resources to understand and expect to be treated as experts

    • avatar

      Nico you’re really funny! I mean you said the truth like I wished to express it but in a very special way! I found it very strange to be rejected as a medical doctor in a time there is an urgent need to healthcare professionals. I am very clever and as a surgeon I am excellent yet in NY they would invite me to be assistant nurse! if ever they accept me to practice here!!! Ahahaha! I ‘ll never accept such humiliation… Why don’t we form an association to defend our rights!
      see it on FB as ” Non Us citizen M.D”… Think about it..

  3. avatar

    Lets see, Illegals only take the jobs Americans wont do, We import high tech workers and now doctors, and everything else we out source to third world nations.

    Who is going to pay if we unemploy all the American workers???

    I used to blame our government until I realized that corporations run our government!!! We need to change our motto from IN GOD WE TRUST to PROFITS BEFORE PEOPLE.

  4. avatar

    I do not think importing doctors from other countries is a good idea. The major problem I have with it is many foreign doctors do not have a solid grip on the English language. It is, in my eyes important to be able to communicate clearly between my doctor and myself. I have had personal experience as well as my Mother had a doctor who was from some other country and when my mother after having a quad bypass was very short of breath the doctor just upped her nebulizer dosage instead of running tests, had they run test they would have found she was severely anemic. She got an American born doctor in the hospital and he immediately ran a battery of tests and 7 transfusions later she was right as rain.

  5. avatar

    The federal government and BOTH major parties want more Third World immigration. Period. Legal. Illegal. Chain migration. Birthright citizenship. H1-B’s. And on and on.

    Our “leaders” want to turn America into Brazil and they’ve just about succeeded. Bye bye, America!

  6. avatar

    I do feel we are in some way responsible for the lack of Doctors in every country around the world also Nurses who are if not recruited to U.S. collages, but after graduating even from their own school’s are lured here with higher wage’s, and almost guaranteed fast track to citizenship. Small wonder that these other countries feel that we steal every resource they have, also by giving preference to foreign students American have a perfect right to complain as those are American dollars by a large margin that pays for those educations. I have some personal experience as to the many who stay here, and do not take their new skills home to their people. when my Cardiologist retired, and I needed to replace him I was given a list of who was practicing here, and found no american born Dr.’s. No I don’t have a preference, but these people did not take what they learned home to people that need them. Let me tell most of you that the man I chose to see has been here 30 years, and I still can’t understand him super Doc, but have to ask what up though his Nurse when I leave.

  7. avatar

    The educational requirement for physicians in foreign countries can be far less than that in the US. Imagine how many more US trained physicians could be had if they only had to attend college, medical school and intern for as long as one trained in India. I see reports of 5 1/2 years for what takes a US doctor 9 years to complete. This is comparable (actually less than many) physician assistant programs.

    No foreign educated medical graduate should be given a residency in the US if there is any US citizen or legal resident applying and unable to be accommodated. As long as the US taxpayers are footing the bills and paying the salaries for residents, we want the opportunities to go to our children and grandchildren before any foreign national who is only planning to use this as a path to immigration – and to bring dozens of relatives as well.

    There is not a shortage of potential doctors – just a shortage of educational opportunities for those hoping to enter the profession. Either demand that foreign trained medical graduates have equivalent training or be required to retake college and medical school to make up the deficiencies.

  8. avatar

    as for foreigners taking jobs from our Medical doctors, as far as I am concerned the U.S. doctors deserve it. They (doctors) fight tooth and nail so others cant join their “elite” status. such as other professionals such as chiropractors . as far as the Medical doctor is concerned they arent doctors. but they went through the courses same as the so called “doctors’ Harvard as a school, wont take anyone other than the “elite” doctor. I know that if these doctors dont want to be out sourced of their money they better think ahead and start letting other professionals in with them.