How Trump's executive order on immigration could impact physician shortages

The Association of American Medical Colleges President and CEO Darrell G. Kirch, MD, issued a statement on President Donald Trump's executive order to temporarily ban nationals from seven countries from traveling into the United States.

Dr. Kirch worries the executive order could accelerate the U.S. physician shortage as international graduates represent around 25 percent of the country's workforce.

"Current immigration pathways — including student, exchange-visitor, and employment visas—provide a balanced solution that improves healthcare access across the country through programs like the National Interest Waiver and the Conrad 30 J-1 Visa Waiver," said Dr. Kirch. Over the past decade, Conrad directed around 10,000 physicians into rural and urban underserved communities.

"Impeding these U.S. immigration pathways jeopardizes critical access to high-quality physician care for our nation's most vulnerable populations," he said.

The executive order covers immigrants from Iraq, Iran, Somalia, Sudan, Libya and Yemen. A Forbes article reported there are 260 people who applied for medical residency from the seven listed countries. An AAMC report from April 2016 found by 2025, there will be an estimated shortfall of between 14,900 and 35,600 primary care physicians; non-primary care specialists are expected to see a 37,400 to 60,300 physician shortfall. 

"Our ability to attract top talent from around the world also enriches the research laboratories at medical schools and teaching hospitals that are working toward cures and has helped position the U.S. as a global leader in medical research, strengthening our economy and bolstering the public's health," Dr. Kirch said. "Because disease knows no geographic boundaries, it is essential to ensure that we continue to foster, rather than impede, scientific cooperation with physicians and researchers of all nationalities as we strive to keep our country healthy."

At least five physicians and medical students reported issues at airports re-entering the country after the executive order.

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