July 07, 2020
Area(s) of Interest: Physician Workforce Diversity and Inclusion
This week, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced changes to student visa programs that would revoke student visas for thousands of international students.
The changes to the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) would strip visas from international nonimmigrant students whose schools have moved entirely to online or distance learning. Thousands of colleges and universities have suspended in-person instruction in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The California Medical Association (CMA) will continue to oppose and speak out against this and similar rulings because they jeopardize our ability to train the physicians and other health care professionals we need to address critical health care workforce shortages in California and across the country.
The new regulations will impact non-US medical students, and those in the medical school pipeline, who hold F-1 or M-1 visas.
International medical graduates do more than just offset our nation’s physician shortage, they are a critical part of our active health care workforce. In the U.S., the American Community Survey (data for 2018) shows that about 1 in every 4 physicians and 1 in every 6 nurses are foreign born. By restricting this pipeline, we restrict the flow of critically needed physicians, which could have harmful effects on the health and welfare of Americans across the nation.
In California, much like the rest of the nation, international physicians are crucial to providing quality care to underserved populations. International medical students come from diverse cultural backgrounds and often speak multiple languages. In Los Angeles alone, over 185 languages are spoken and more than 50%of Los Angeles residents speak a language other than English in the home.
“We are in the middle of a health care crisis and we must do everything we can as a state and nation to maintain and expand our physician network,” said CMA President Peter N. Bretan, Jr., M.D. “Physician shortages have catastrophic consequences on the health and well-being of patients who need care. This is a step in the wrong direction for addressing our state’s critical health care needs.”