I got to go to the talk given bu Kata Chillag this afternoon titled “International Medical Graduates at the Crossroads: Ethics of Immigration Policy and Health Care in Underserved Areas.” In this presentation, Chillag presented the process of becoming and maintaining status as an International Medical Graduate (IMG), and focused on West Virginia and the poverty of Appalachia to display the need for health care in underprivileged areas.
One important point that Chillag made was that, “disparity follows disparity.” She pointed out that is was a common misconception that places have more widespread illness as a result of poor healthcare… but in reality places have poor healthcare because of a lack of resources, and the widespread illness follows.
The example she provided about West Virginia was interesting because in underserved places, the amount of IMGs that are working in those areas is higher, up to 30% of the health care professionals. However, West Virginia is also not diverse and public opinion polling shows that there is a common anti-immigration sentiment throughout the state. In this sense, it is tragic that the people who are being served by immigrants do not value that contributions of immigrants, and that just furthers the barrier between the people of Appalachia and their access to healthcare.
I learned about the process of being an IMG in America and how people maintain that status here. If non-native people are educated in a medical school outside of the United States, the need to go through extensive testing, including a many month residency that must happen in America, to prove that their training is sufficient to serve the American public. IMGs most often work in areas that people do not have access to professionals that were trained in American schools, and their presence here is vital to the success of underserved communities. However, IMGs can only stay for a fixed amount of time, 7 years for many people, and after that they must either have accessed permanent residency or citizenship. As we know, that process is not always accessible, and for many IMGs they must return to their last country of long-term residence for 2 years before returning to America to work again. There is, however, a newer program in place that allows 30 IMGs in a given area to stay past their 7 year term if they are elected to that position because they are contributing to an underserved area.
Overall, I found this talk quite interesting because I had no previous information on the topic of IMGs. I think that this study shows many different nuances in the the American experience, from those of poverty to xenophobia to the broken immigration policy.