President Donald Trump's executive order banning immigrants from seven predominantly Muslim countries could affect thousands of doctors who trained in those countries, FiveThirtyEight reports.
There are over 775,000 doctors in the United States, just under 165,000 of which trained outside the country, and over 8,000 of them trained in the countries Trump named in his executive order. According to FiveThirtyEight, "Foreign medical graduates are also more likely to practice in areas of the country with the most severe physician shortages."
In some areas of the country, qualified doctors have become hard to find. Missouri introduced a law in 2014 allowing graduates from medical school to work as "assistant physicians" who would treat patients in rural areas even without training in a residency program.
"We felt it was time for someone to think outside the box and come up with a solution for rural healthcare access, so that is what we did," Jeffrey Howell, the director of government affairs for the state medical association, told The Wall Street Journal when the law was signed.
"Physicians who trained in the Middle East, about 15,000 total, make up nearly 10 percent of all foreign-trained medical graduates practicing in the U.S. today, and their work follows the same pattern as that of other doctors trained abroad — they disproportionately work in less-lucrative specialties, in high-shortage counties and in counties that voted heavily for Trump," the writers at FiveThirtyEight conclude.
"Foreign medical graduates play a vital role in our medical system. We rely on them to provide much-needed care in undeserved regions and medical specialties. Policies that limit immigration, such as the recent executive order and rumored changes to a visa program on which these medical graduates depend, would be highly disruptive to the medical system — and could end up doing to the greatest harm to the very people who supported Trump the most."
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