Immigrants, including Indians and Indian-Americans, crucial to health care services

Close to 30 percent of physicians in the United States are foreign -born and nearly 7 percent of them are not citizens of the country.

That’s according to a new report carried in the Journal of the American Medical Association co-authored by an Indian-origin researcher Yash M. Patel, published Dec. 4. But that’s hardly news for Indian-origin and Indian-American physicians.

According to the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin, AAPI, “1 in every 7 people in the USA is touched by the care of a physician of Indian origin at any given time.”

Founded as far back as 1982, to help the many Indian medical professionals wanting to come to this country and study here, and for recognition of “Foreign Medical Graduates” AAPI today claims to represent some 80,000 practicing physicians in the U.S., as well as serve as a platform for more than 40,000 medical students, residents and fellows of Indian origin in this country.

“AAPI physicians represent only 10% of all physicians in the United States but service approximately 30% of the US patient population,” the organization says on its website. This is probably the largest ethnic medical association in the country. An Indian-American, Dr. Vivek Murthy, was “America’s Doctor” as the 19th Surgeon General of the country.

The Dec. 4 JAMA report quoted by PBS, while not giving the country-of-birth breakdown, uses 2016 data from the U.S. Census’ American Community Survey, shows among other things, that non–US-born medical graduates comprise approximately one-fifth of practicing U.S. physicians, and among non–US-born medical graduates who match into residency positions in the United States, approximately 60% are not US citizens.

The sample from the Community Survey consisted of more than 164,000 health care professionals, 16.6 percent of them being foreign-born, and another 4.6 percent non-citizens.

Dr. Vivek Murthy, the 19th Surgeon General of the U.S.. (Photo: vivekmurthy.com)

Growing Need

According to a PBS news report based on Bureau of Labor statistics, with the growing healthcare needs of an aging population in coming years in this country, employment in the health industry is predicted to grow 18 percent or 2.4 million jobs in the next 8 years.

The JAMA report shows the level of dependence on immigrant health professionals, in the current U.S. healthcare system at this juncture.

2016 data broken down by specialty by the JAMA report shows the following —

29.1 percent of physicians were foreign-born and 6.9 percent were not citizens; Among Dentists 23.7 percent were foreign born and 3.9 percent non-citizens; Nursing, Psychiatric and Home Health Aides were made up of 23.1 percent foreign-born and 8.7 percent non-citizens; Pharmacists, among whom those of Indian-origin are ubiquitous, are made up of 20.3 percent foreign-born and 3.7 percent non-citizens; Among Dieticians and Nutritionists 17.4 percent are foreign-born and 7.7 percent were non-citizens. Several other categories, including Medical Assistants, Dental Assistants, Optometrists, Registered Nurses, and Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses, all show a similar trend of a notable proportion being immigrants or non-citizens.

The American Medical Association has been among the strongest supporters of immigration for medical professionals, and against any restrictions on health services for immigrants on grounds that it would cause more harm to the health of the millions of immigrants who could be barred or decide not to access health care even if sick.

 

 

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