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International Medical Graduates Key to Solving the Physician Shortage

Carl Shusterman, for HealthLeaders Media, October 8, 2009

Unfortunately, this in itself will not solve the physician supply problem. It is time to consider opening U.S. medical practice to physicians who have trained elsewhere. Today, only physicians trained in Canada are permitted to obtain a medical license in the United States without completing a U.S.-based residency program. Canada's medical licensing exam and residency training programs are deemed to be equivalent to those in the United States. Physicians trained in every other country must complete a U.S.-based residency program to qualify for a medical license.

In the past, this policy has been a safeguard that has helped ensure a high standard of care. Today, however, there are thousands of highly-trained physicians from Europe, Asia, and elsewhere who, on a case-by-case basis, have the skills and commitment to contribute to the quality of care available in this country. In fact, a growing number of patients from the United States are traveling abroad to receive care from these doctors. This trend is likely to accelerate as the physician shortage makes access to doctors in the United States increasingly problematic.

It makes little sense to lose these patients or the care and innovation that select international medical graduates could provide. Can it be possible that only physicians trained in the United States and Canada have the skills to provide quality patient care? The time to seriously rethink this notion has arrived.


Carl Shusterman served as a trial attorney for the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service and is principal of the Los Angeles-based Law Offices of Carl Shusterman. He can be reached at carl@shusterman.com.
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