Primary care training and international medical graduates

I have had the pleasure as a medical student to complete my clinical clerkships in the Baltimore area community hospitals, the Johns Hopkins Hospital, and the National Institutes of Health.

I will forever cherish these experiences and lessons as I progress through my career. With an educated and wealthy suburban population and a large disadvantaged urban population; Baltimore is symbolic of the challenges and opportunities the healthcare field faces.

There are different measures that can be used to assess the strength of a nation from economic, educational, to standard of living indicators. The common variable is that the citizens must be healthy to have a positive effect on the well-being of the nation. For the nation to remain competitive in this increasingly globalized world the health of the American people is of significant national interest. Increasing residency training positions would help improve the health of the nation.

After I completed my undergraduate training at the University of Toronto I continued my studies by attending Aureus University School of Medicine in Aruba. I am part of a growing trend of individuals who attend medical schools based in the Caribbean. The growth of these schools is due to the fact that traditional medical schools have been unable to accommodate all qualified individuals who desire to be patient care providers.

Caribbean students are unique members of the International Medical Graduate community as our basic sciences are conducted outside the U.S. but our clinical experiences are conducted within the same healthcare systems as U.S. graduates. Thus, we are all well integrated into the U.S. medical system. It is well established that IMGs now represent 25% of practising physicians and they are more likely to train in primary care and rural medicine than U.S. counterparts.

From what I have seen, key to the promotion of primary care training is further integration of the IMG community. Many individuals regardless of their medical school origin will be attracted to speciality training because of market forces and ‘lifestyle’ issues. I feel that promoting primary care training through incentive programs may not be the best method, rather we should focus on the issue of the residency training shortage. 11,577 individuals went unmatched this year I am sure if given the opportunity a large majority of these individuals would be delighted to be in a residency position this July.

The future of medicine is bright as we enter this new era. The reforms promise a move away from the era of defensive medicine and towards increased patient care with the next generation of physicians leading the way.

Sajeet Sohi is a graduate of Aureus University School of Medicine in Aruba and author of International Medical Graduates – A Possible Solution to the Expected Physician Shortage.  This piece originally appeared on Primary Care Progress Notes.

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