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Foreign Physicians Can Help Solve America’s Doctor Shortage

Iowa and Virginia join the list of states eliminating needless extra training as a licensing requirement.

America’s physician shortage is nothing to sneeze at. For primary care alone, the country will be short more than 40,000 doctors by 2030. American Medical Association President Jesse Ehrenfeld calls it “an urgent crisis” as nearly 1 in 4 American doctors will hit retirement age by the end of the decade. The crisis will worsen as the population grows and ages.

There is a solution. States are starting to see the value of letting internationally licensed physicians help fill their doctor shortages. Govs. Kim Reynolds and Glenn Youngkin signed bills recently allowing Iowa and Virginia to join Tennessee, Florida, Wisconsin and Idaho to create a pathway for doctors practicing abroad to become fully licensed without completing unnecessary post-medical-school “residency” training in the U.S.

Previously, doctors licensed outside the U.S. had to come as trainees, or “medical residents,” even if the training was repetitive. This meant top foreign doctors who treat professional athletes around the world, for example, could treat American athletes only overseas. Or doctors who wanted to help underserved communities in the U.S. would have to take lower pay and repeat training they had already completed in another country.

States all face their own challenges because the distribution of physicians across the country isn’t uniform. Virginia ranks 33rd in the country for the supply of general surgeons, while Georgia ranks 41st in primary-care-physician supply. Michigan’s doctor-patient ratio for psychiatry is 26% worse than the national average.

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