WASHINGTON, D.C.— America’s leading medical associations, including the American College of Emergency Physicians and the American Medical Association, are cautioning the Trump Administration that its decision to restrict visas for qualified foreign workers could have a dangerous impact on access to care for our nation’s patients.
A July 6 announcement from the administration says it will require international students taking online courses to transfer to in-person instruction, a decision that forces some foreign students to leave the country or face removal. These restrictions will hit the medical and research sectors particularly hard and could cause longer-term damage to our health care workforce.
In a letter sent to the departments of State and Homeland Security, the organizations underscore that the entry of H-1B physicians and their dependent family members is in the national interest of the country. The letter also illustrates how America relies on international medical graduates (IMGs) to maintain a robust health care workforce that is capable of addressing the health needs of everyone in the U.S. This principle is especially important to emergency physicians who by law and by oath must treat anyone who seeks care at the emergency department.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. was already facing a serious shortage of physicians largely due to the growth and aging of the nation’s population and the impending retirement of many physicians. IMGs represent more than 25 percent of the physician workforce in our country, and nearly 21 million people live in areas of the U.S. where foreign-trained physicians account for at least half of all physicians.
The world’s brightest minds have long sought opportunities at leading institutions throughout the United States. Policies of this nature ignore the collaborative global nature of today’s workforce and will drive talented individuals away from the United States while limiting opportunities for our country’s leadership and innovation. The entry of every qualified medical student is in America’s best interest especially during the pandemic, when physicians are needed in every specialty now more than ever.