Signed in March, President Trump’s executive order is the second iteration of the travel ban. He withdrew his first executive order after a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled unanimously against reinstating the ban.
At the heart of delegates’ opposition is the impact the ban has on admitting qualified international physicians—many of whom work with populations in rural and underserved urban regions—into U.S. graduate medical education.
Also affecting IMGs is the suspension of H-1B visa premium processing, under which the wait time for an H-1B visa is cut from several months to as little as 15 days. In response to this delay, the HOD called for the AMA to “advocate for the immediate reinstatement of premium processing of H-1B visas for physicians and trainees to prevent any negative impact on patient care.”
Delegates also adopted policy to “recognize the valuable contributions and affirm our support of international medical students and international medical graduates and their participation in U.S. medical schools, residency and fellowship training programs in the practice of medicine.” In addition, the AMA will “advocate for the timely processing of visas for all physicians, including residents, fellows and physicians in independent practice.”
Effect on underserved communities
Due to policies like the J-1 visa waiver program—under which state departments of public health may recommend up to 30 J-1 visa waivers to physicians to provide care in underserved communities—IMGs are more likely to provide care where it is most needed.
During an AMA Annual Meeting education session about the recent immigration actions, several speakers commented on their wide-reaching ramifications. Noel Deep, MD, a naturalized U.S. citizen who immigrated here to practice medicine in the 1990s, was among them.
Dr. Deep works in Antigo, Wisconsin, a rural community of about 10,000 that is struggling to find physicians to serve its population. As a result, patients have to go to great lengths to receive certain procedures.
“It is very stressful on the smaller communities,” he said. “These are people who work on farms or in blue-collar jobs. For them to take time off—the expenses they have to incur—it is huge.”
A majority of Deep’s physician colleagues are IMGs. He believes the ban could have an impact that extends well beyond the six countries it covers.
“Parents who have medical students are coming out and asking us, ‘Do you still advise us to send our kids [to the U.S.]?’” Dr. Deep said. “Because they can still go to England or they can go to Australia and get a good education there.”
Helping address these issues is another goal of the new AMA policy, which calls for an assessment of the travel ban’s impact and urges the AMA to “work with other stakeholders to study the current impact of immigration reform efforts on residency and fellowship programs, physician supply and timely access of patients to health care throughout the U.S.”
Read more news coverage from the 2017 AMA Annual Meeting.