We are facing a serious issue in the United States: a lack of medical professionals. The country is already short of 17,000 primary care professionals and 8,000 mental health professionals, and is expected to face a deficit of up to 124,000 doctors. This is why America needs foreign medical graduates (IMGs).Dr. Antoine Beayno is one example of an IMG.
He grew up and studied medicine in Lebanon, where LGBTQ+ people can be discriminated against or denied medical care. Despite his exhausting hours as a resident in Lebanon, Beayno worked his way through the requirements and recommendations to obtain a residency position in the United States. Some IMGs arrive as refugees or spouses of US citizens, while others start the residency application process during medical school in their home country. IMGs are more likely to provide services in rural, low-income, or underserved regions. The process of applying for residence and obtaining the required visa is highly competitive.
To increase their chances of success, some applicants complete a clinical rotation “away from home” in the United States during medical school. Once they arrive, IMGs must complete a US residency program and obtain a full US license for at least one year. To stay after that, they may need to apply for a green card or another visa. There are certain types of exemptions available such as the Conrad 3.0 exemption (30% per state), which involves agreeing to work in an underserved region for at least three years. International doctors may face patient biases, but they often have a lot of support from their colleagues and programs that provide help such as connecting residents with “older siblings” from their home region and offering briefings with experts such as immigration attorneys and financial advisors. Given the great need for more doctors in the United States, advocates are calling for legislative changes to allow more non-American IMGs to come here and stay. The AAMC and other groups have called on Congress to expand the number of international doctors who can receive Conrad 3.0 exemptions. There are more than 247,000 doctors with medical degrees from foreign countries who practice in the United States, representing just over a quarter of all doctors.
IMGs bring diverse perspectives and experiences that can make a big difference in therapy. They can also relate to underserved populations in general and not just those in their region of origin. Adapting to US health care systems, teaching styles, and administrative demands can be challenging for foreign-born trainees. However, they often have a lot of support which helps them make an impact on US healthcare.