Minnesota, home state of the renowned Mayo Clinic, may become a national leader in helping foreign-trained physicians shorten the demanding and costly process of transferring their skills to the United States so that they may practice here. At present, the major requirements for immigrating doctors to be licensed in America are threefold:
Requirement 1 — They must pass the first two parts of the United States Medical Licensing Exam.
Requirement 2 — They must be certified by the Educational Commission for Foreign-Trained Medical Graduates.
Requirement 3 — If they clear the first two hurdles, foreign-trained physicians must then enter a lengthy residency program and pass the third licensing test.
Study courses and fees for exams leading to a residency can cost a foreign-trained physician $15,000 or more, not an insignificant sum for an up-and-coming young doctor.
It is a situation where a foreign-trained doctor’s test scores and professional resume can be outstanding, and yet the physician is required to take steps backward in what could well be the prime of his or her career. As Jinny Reitmann, Manager for Workforce Development in Rochester, Minnesota, the Mayo Clinic’s home town, puts it: “They have to start from scratch here as far as getting a residency to accept them, and then complete the residency program in order to practice.”
There is, however, an optimistic, if somewhat ironic, element in this scenario: There are significant health disparities between foreign-born United States citizens and those who were born in this country, who grew up as beneficiaries of the U.S. health care system.
Adding more immigrant physicians, Reitmann believes, would help tackle this health inequality. “Individuals are more likely to use the local health care system if their doctors are able to communicate well and understand their culture and their questions, and where they’re coming from”.
Minnesota has formed a Task Force on Foreign-Trained Physicians, which estimates that the state is home to as many as 400 immigrant doctors who have not yet been certified to practice. The task force is working to update the process in ways that will enable more foreign-trained doctors to practice in the state, a project they hope will be the blueprint for other states to follow.