AMA Wire

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Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2013

Special Feature

IMGs have a strong advocate in the AMA

IMGs have a strong advocate in the AMA

Comprising one-quarter of all practicing U.S. physicians, international medical graduates (IMG) form an integral part of the American medical profession and fill important gaps in care delivery, including primary care and underserved populations. IMGs make up 37 percent of physicians in internal medicine, 27 percent of family practice doctors and 28 percent of pediatricians, according to an AMA workforce paper.

With a looming physician shortage, the contributions of IMGs are more critical than ever. That's why the AMA is engaged in advocacy efforts to alleviate visa and other work-related complications for these physicians. A bipartisan immigration bill passed by the U.S. Senate earlier this summer includes numerous favorable provisions the AMA secured, including:

  • Permanent reauthorization of the Conrad 30 State J-1 Visa Waiver program.
  • Establishment of a mechanism to increase the current cap on visa waivers per state.
  • Permission for physicians to enter the country on a J visa for a residency or training program with the intent to immigrate permanently.
  • Eligibility for physicians who work in underserved areas for five years to secure a green card through the physician National Interest Waiver program. These physicians would be exempt from the worldwide cap on employment-based green cards.
  • Increased transparency in contract terms (for example, employment contracts would be required to list hours and locations of work and could not include a noncompete provision).

The AMA also convinced legislators to scrap proposed burdensome recruitment and hiring regulations that would have conflicted with the current operations of the medical residency match process and would have dissuaded employers from hiring IMGs with H-IB visas.

In addition, the AMA is working to prevent cuts to federal funding for medical residency training programs, otherwise known as graduate medical education (GME). Read more about the AMA's Save GME campaign elsewhere in AMA Wire.

Meanwhile, the AMA-IMG Section—more than 36,000 members strong—is considering other potential options to help graduates of international medical schools who now live in the United States work in their trained profession of medicine. The section's special GME committee is brainstorming about possible alternative models and funding mechanisms to expand the current GME and licensure system, talking with other stakeholders and working toward creative solutions to increase patients' access to high-quality care.

If you're not an AMA member, join today and be part of the AMA's efforts as the advocate for IMGs.