To address these threats, highly qualified individuals from other countries are needed in the health workforce to help care for patients and conduct biomedical research, according to the brief.
“That’s what makes us a leader: Our diversity and our ability to attract the best and the brightest from all over the world,” Dr. Grover said. “Anything that would limit our ability to do that doesn’t sit quite right with science and health care professionals.”
He noted how Congress has developed specific programs to create pathways for highly skilled and carefully screened professionals from other countries to immigrate to the U.S. These include the Conrad 30 program, which has resulted in more than 15,000 physicians practicing in underserved areas. The brief tells how the president’s proclamation bars physicians from Iran and Syria from obtaining the work visa needed to participate in the Conrad 30 program.
Care for veterans, rural areas at risk
Most are unaware of the coming doctor shortage and how the travel ban could speed its arrival and worsen its impact, Dr. Grover said.
“I don’t think most people understand the immigration system,” he said. “Or they don’t understand the intricacies of the physician workforce. They just expect someone to be there when they need them.”
The brief notes that, in addition to providing care in underserved areas, physicians from other countries are a significant portion of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs workforce.
According to a study cited in the brief, there were an estimated 3,899 physicians in the U.S. in 2015 who had received training in Syria and 3,043 who had trained in Iran. Based on national averages, those two groups of physicians collectively provide care during 14 million patient visits annually.
The brief cites AAMC’s figures that the U.S. has a shortage of between 29,500 and 37,800 physicians and projects a shortage of between 42,600 and 121,300 physicians by 2030.
“This would be hurting the most vulnerable people in our society,” Dr. Grover said of the travel ban.
The proclamation before the court is the third iteration of an executive order from the administration seeking to implement nationality-based immigration restrictions.
Dr. Grover said a central concern of his organization’s members is that they don’t want there to be anything that prevents the arrival of “that next doctor or scientist who could be helping patients the most.”