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Foreign-Educated Doctors Flood Country, Panel Says

Wed., Jan. 24, 1996

A committee of health experts Tuesday recommended that the government stop subsidizing the advanced training of foreign-educated doctors in the United States, saying a recent influx of foreign medical graduates was the chief cause of an impending national surplus of physicians.

The committee also advised Americans who want to become doctors to think twice about going to medical school, because the increasing surplus of physicians, combined with strict controls on health-care costs, could make it hard for them to earn a living.

“The time and money” it takes to become a doctor “may represent a poor personal investment on their part,” said Neal E. Vanselow, professor of medicine at Tulane University and co-chair of a committee of the National Academy of Science’s Institute of Medicine that studied the U.S. physician work force.

The warning came as increasing numbers of U.S. college graduates are clamoring for admission to the nation’s 125 medical schools. Last year’s total of 45,365 applicants was about 50 percent higher than five years ago, although the number of places available - about 17,000 - has remained steady.

The committee blamed the surplus on a sharp increase over the past five years in the number of foreign medical graduates receiving federally subsidized advanced training in this country and staying on to practice medicine. From 1988 to 1993, the number of foreign-educated doctors in advanced training increased by 80 percent to 22,706. Seventy-five percent of such physicians remained in the United States to practice.

The number of foreign-educated doctors entering advanced training programs in the United States each year is the equivalent of the entire graduating class of 50 foreign medical schools, the committee reported.

It also said the medical education received by graduates of foreign schools is inferior to that provided by in U.S. medical schools.

“The potential displacement of U.S.-educated physicians by foreign-trained physicians is regarded with dismay by this committee,” the report stated.


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