How to Break Down Barriers That Keep Out Potential Immigrant Physician Entrepreneurs

Creating immigration barriers for talented foreign medical school graduates is dysfunctional and unproductive, given our sick-care workforce needs and the global war for talent.

For some mysterious reason, American citizens who go to medical school outside of the US are called “international medical graduates” (IMGs) and those who are not American citizens who trained in other countries are called “foreign medical graduates” (FMGs). The checkpoint that determines whether you can practice medicine in the US is whether you can match into a post-medical school residency. The odds of doing so for IMGs is much higher than the odds for FMGs, which, for the latter, can be as high as 50%. Consequently, there are many FMGs who are qualified or have post-medical degrees like MBAs, Masters in biological sciences, or MPH degrees, yet still have a hard time getting a job using their skills. Many face immigration or student visa issues and are anxious because the meter is running out.

Creating barriers to these talented medical graduates is dysfunctional and unproductive, given our sick-care workforce needs and the global war for talent. These individuals represent a potential pool of physician entrepreneurs and here are some ways we might help them:

1. Engage non-US medical schools who have a track record of not matching their graduates and offer them resources, networks, and exposure to non-clinical opportunities.

2. Amend immigration and visa laws.

3. Create tax credits for US-based biomedical and sick-care companies willing to sponsor FMGs.

4. Liberalize residency requirements for FMGs.

5. Create alternative pathways for clinically experienced FMGs as part of a re-entry program, similar to those offered American practitioners who have been out of clinical practice for a while and want to re-enter.

6. Create international bioentrepreneurship fellowships in collaboration with home countries with a mechanism to return them to their home country so as not to contribute to a brain drain.

7. Create international bioentrepreneurship knowledge exchange programs so US physician entrepreneurs can work in destination countries similar to that offered by the Fulbright Program.

8. Expand the international business part of bioentrepreneurship education programs.

9. Provide scholarship or foundation support for FMG physician entrepreneurs.

10. Organize an annual meeting of international physician entrepreneurs around the world to create meaningful networks.

We are wasting and ignoring talent in a time of need. We should not let medical xenophobia get any worse than it already is.