Light is still at the end of the tunnel
Due to the physician shortage that the U.S. has been facing and the rise of COVID-19 cases, the demand for more doctors especially FMGs (Foreign Medical Graduates) has become inevitable. In fact, back in March 2020, the chief medical officer of the American Medical Association wrote a letter pleading to the Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, and his acting secretary, Chad Wolf, to ensure that FMGs were not affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, as their work was vital to honing down the spike of COVID-19 cases.
The chief medical officer’s demands were to “expedite the process of visa statuses, provide a 30-day grace period beyond the end of the declared national emergency, and issue a public statement to allow J-1 physicians to be redeployed to new rotations to support the demand of COVID-19 afflicted patients.”
The AMA is also working with U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar and other congressional members to pass legislation to increase the number of doctors and the USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services) has been in liaison with AMA to “reconsider the suspension” of H-1B Visas so physicians with this visa will be able to provide services to COVID-19 patients in the United States. With the issuing of waivers and the apparent need for physicians, there’s still a silver lining in an FMG’s medical residency dream.
Setbacks that FMGs faced during the pandemic
With the menacing onset of COVID-19 across the globe in 2020, 2021 has not lightened up as of yet and FMGs have had to still jump through hoops to obtain US Visas. COVID-19 has made most medical conglomerates and health officials take preventative measures along with government implementation to stop the spread of the virus: this means putting a halt on immigration into the U.S. helping to stop the spread of the infection. Variants of the COVID-19 virus, such as the Delta virus that plagued most of India taking 400,000 lives, have also become a cause of concern and an increased risk with immigration. According to Michigan’s Clinical Professor, Dr Hammoud, FMGs applied for an average of 137 programs from 2019-2020 and now she claims that 40,000 medical students applied for US residency in 2020-2021.
With the U.S. government halting visas to foreign resident students, USMLE testing centers being closed and the lack of in person interviews, the resident application process for FMGs has become more of a challenge and a competitive arena amongst the pandemonium. Medical schools have had to adapt to the circumstances by providing virtual rotations, shortening clerkships and waiving certain USMLE requirements. This all together hinders the U.S. medical experience (while making exceptions for U.S. grads) for FMGs and garners an apathy towards their interests.
FMGs are needed!
The COVID-19 pandemic has been a rough year for all of us which we can all agree, and for FMGs who wanted to study medicine in the U.S during that time have had to meet head on with this impeding retrovirus road block. According to a 2017 study from the American Immigration Council, 31.8 percent of all physicians who specialize in primary healthcare are FMGs.
FMGs have consistently been helpful in rural and vulnerable demographics and have improved the medical system in the U.S. with not only imparting great knowledge as doctors, but also stepping up the bar for medical research in the globalism of medicine. We hope FMGs get the help they need for visas and continue to help American patients indefinitely and wholeheartedly.
COVID-19 FAQs: Guidance for international medical graduates.
AMA, August 14, 2020
With a J-1Visa Waiver, You Don’t Have to Return Home.
FMG Portal, June 19, 2019
Foreign-Trained Doctors are Critical to Serving Many U.S. Communities
American Immigration Council Special Report, January 2018
AMA, March 24 2020