This week, ACOG joined the Council of Medical Specialty Societies in calling on U.S. House of Representatives and Senate leaders to take additional action to support the nation’s health care workforce by retaining physicians and scientists currently in the United States and expediting the entrance of physicians into the country.
International medical graduates (IMGs) play an important role in the U.S. health care system. More than 25% of the physician workforce in this country is composed of IMGs who are training or practicing in the United States on a visa or under other protected status, and nearly 21 million Americans live in an area wherein at least one-half of the physicians are trained in countries other than the United States. Now more than ever, it is critical that we recognize the value that IMGs bring to the U.S. health care system and do whatever we can to ensure that IMGs can arrive and remain in the United States legally and efficiently.
The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed and exacerbated existing weaknesses in our health care system, particularly in rural and underserved areas. IMGs often practice in these areas, filling critical gaps in care. IMGs are an indispensable part of the U.S. health care system and provide much-needed support and vital services during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In addition to the fear for personal safety due to shortages of personal protective equipment and diagnostic testing physicians nationwide are experiencing, IMGs also face uncertainty of their visa status and the possibility of separation from their families. Delays in visa processing will put additional and unnecessary strain on these physicians, their families, and the communities they serve. That is why ACOG is urging Congress and the administration to support the IMG workforce by expediting visa processing, prioritizing change-of-status applications for IMGs on certain visas, and granting automatic one-year extensions of visas for the spouses and dependent children of IMGs.
ACOG continues to advocate for bipartisan policies to address the public health emergency caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. It is critical that policy makers take additional action to respond to the ongoing and evolving needs of women’s health care physicians and their patients, including additional support for IMGs.