As reported this morning in the weblog, Working Immigrants, the number of foreign born doctors wanting to come to the US is dropping, which may have a significant impact on the availability of doctors in certain parts of the country and in many hospitals and clinics, especially those that serve underserved and lower-income communities.
According to Working Immigrants, there are more than 247,000 doctors with medical degrees from foreign countries practicing in the US.
They make up slightly more than one-quarter of all doctors, and most are not US citizens, and are foreign-born as well.
One of the channels of immigration of foreign-born and foreign trained doctors is through graduate medical study. This year, just over 7,000 international medical graduates applied to study in the US, representing a downturn of 217 from last year, and nearly 400 from 2016.
Nearly 25% of residents across all medical fields were born outside the US in 2015, and in subspecialty residency programs, foreign medical graduates accounted for more than one-third of residents.
As I indicated above, foreign-trained doctors are more likely to practice in lower-income and disadvantaged communities than their American counterparts,
Where more than 30% of the population lives below the poverty rate, nearly one-third of the doctors are foreign-trained. And where per-capita income is below $15,000 per year, 42.5% of all doctors are foreign-trained. Finally, where 75% or more of the population is non-white, 36.2% of the doctors are foreign-trained.
This trend will most likely impact the predicted physician shortage that has been previously reported in this blog. In addition, it will add to the burden hospitals are facing in providing care as many of these immigrants work in hospitals to augment the staff shortages they already have.
If this trend continues thanks to current administration policy and xenophobia, the problem will only get worse. The reader should be aware that to even get into the US to practice medicine is a long and difficult process and many physicians do not get in to the country.
Instead of turning away good doctors from foreign countries, we should welcome them and keep them working in the areas of the country where they are practicing and providing care to those who otherwise would not have a doctor to go to.