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Unveiling America's Doctor Gap: How international medical graduates are making an impact


International medical graduates can help both patients and doctors

America is staring down the barrel of an escalating health care crisis, a deepening doctor shortage that threatens to derail the well-being of all its people. Nobody is safe, and without prompt action, this crisis will continue to worsen as time passes until it reaches the point of no return.

Dr. Michael Everest: ©Residents Medical

Dr. Michael Everest: ©Residents Medical

To put things into perspective, let's peel back the layers of this issue with some shocking statistics. With an aging population, increased prevalence of chronic diseases, and a mass retirement of practicing doctors, the Association of American Medical Colleges predicts a shortfall of up to 124,000 physicians by 2034. This yawning gap is especially pronounced in primary care, a critical area of health care responsible for preventive and routine maintenance.

As an observer, you might wonder: how does this affect me? The shortage of doctors creates a domino-effect crisis, a chain event that reinforces itself through a feedback loop.Each iteration of the cycle’s events reinforces the next one, making the next cycle stronger in nature. Or in the case of crisis, deadlier. And it goes on and on until everything crashes.

In this doctor shortage cycle, lack of available personnel fuels longer wait times and limited access to care, and it inadvertently results in a domino effect of overburdened doctors, declining care quality, and a heavier reliance on emergency services. The vicious circle then culminates in escalating health care costs, and it will go on until no single person in America can afford a doctor’s treatment.

We are already seeing the cycle in action as a recent primary care scorecard published by the Milbank Memorial Fund and the Physicians Foundation revealed another shocking piece of information: 27% of adults said they had to use an emergency room for their health care needs in 2020 because they didn’t have access to a family doctor.

Just as shocking, doctors that are specialists are in even shorter order. Recently I spoke with a hospital executive in Northern California. We were evaluating whether it would be beneficial for him to start a medical residency training program. More residency positions are a real way to help alleviate the doctor shortage. He shared with me that specialists, such as otolaryngologists or even general surgeons, are not around. In an 80-mile radius, there are no specialists. This is in the most populous state in our union!

These stats are highly concerning as they show we are already deep inside the cycle. However, there is a light at the end of this tunnel: a solution that has been staring us in the face all along – International Medical Graduates (IMGs). It is a solution that I’ve been trying to bring to life ever since I founded Residents Medical and edYOU organizations.

Over the years, I have seen thousands of capable, passionate, and committed IMGs who strive to continue their medical journey in the U.S. But their path is laden with complexities and biases, often leaving these ambitious medical professionals on the fringes and their vast potential untapped. This oversight, in my opinion, is a lost opportunity.

Our mission at Residents Medical is to unlock this potential, level the playing field, and help IMGs find their place in the American health care landscape. We aim to provide them with a fair fighting chance, facilitating their transition from medical school graduate to resident doctor, thereby addressing the doctor shortage and enhancing the diversity and resilience of our health care system.

For instance, a Syrian doctor we assisted was facing the daunting prospect of returning to his war-torn homeland. With our support, he navigated the complexities of the ECFMG certification process and secured a spot in a general surgery program in West Virginia. After completing his journey, his skills, knowledge, and resilience now enrich the lives of countless patients in an underserved area of the U.S.

But why IMGs, you might ask? Why not just focus on increasing the number of home-grown doctors? To me, the answer is simple: diversity in health care is not merely a buzzword but a necessity. Incorporating IMGs into the American health care system isn't just about filling gaps—it's about building bridges.

The American health care system craves these bridges that span cultural, geographical, and linguistic divides while fostering a more inclusive, comprehensive, and robust health care system that serves the diverse needs of our population; IMGs bring a wealth of unique perspectives and experiences, often gained from overcoming challenges and working in resource-poor settings. These experiences foster adaptability, resilience, and an appreciation for cultural sensitivities, qualities indispensable to health care delivery in our diverse nation.

And yet, the path is full of obstacles. The process is arduous, demanding, and often disheartening for these individuals. To ease this, we've harnessed the power of artificial intelligence, offering personalized tutoring to prepare IMG’s for the American post graduate training landscape through our edYOU Safe AI program, providing a supportive learning environment that caters to the unique needs of each individual.

The power of this innovative approach lies in its reciprocity. IMGs get the chance to fulfill their dreams and contribute to American health care, while the U.S. health care system benefits from their unique skills and perspectives. It's a win-win situation if ever there was one.

As we grapple with this impending crisis, I am reminded of a familiar adage: necessity is the mother of invention. My journey and mission at Residents Medical and edYOU are rooted in this very premise.

Through Residents Medical, we are not just bridging the doctor gap but fostering a future that embraces diversity, values resilience, and prioritizes equity. We are shaping an inclusive health care landscape where every doctor, regardless of nationality or background, has an equal opportunity to serve.

However, this mission isn't mine alone. It requires the collective will of policymakers, educational institutions, and the wider public. It's time we recognized the contribution of these international graduates and integrated them more seamlessly into our health care fabric.

So, as we stand at the precipice of this health care crisis, I implore you to look beyond borders and biases. Let's embrace the richness of global collaboration, turn crisis into opportunity, and write an inspiring chapter for the future of American healthcare.

Dr. Michael Everest is a pioneering figure in medical education and the visionary Founder and Chief Academic Officer of Residents Medical, a Los Angeles-based institution dedicated to guiding medical and graduate students toward their ideal residency or fellowship placements. With a passion for revolutionizing the residency process through improvements and equality, Dr. Everest's expertise and profound understanding of the medical education system has empowered countless students to achieve their professional dreams and excel in their chosen specialties. Additionally, he has introduced edYOU, a cutting-edge "safe-AI platform" for educational purposes, further solidifying his commitment to advancing education and personalized student support into the AI and digital age.

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