At a time when the State of Illinois is grappling with a significant shortage of physicians, the signing of two new legislations by Governor of Illinois, J B Pritzker, will be crucial in reducing barriers to licensing for internationally trained physicians. Currently, 12,000 residents of Illinois hold international medical degrees, and yet they face restrictions preventing them from utilizing their expertise to offer healthcare services.
The new legislation includes creation of a permanent alternative pathway to full licensure for International Medical Graduates (IMGs), marking a significant departure from other State approaches that focus on establishing restricted licenses. Additionally, the creation of the role of an ombudsman within the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR) tasked with aiding IMGs in navigating the process of relicensing will further enable this process.
Thanking Governor Pritzker for the initiative, Trustee of Oak Brook, Illinois, and Past President of American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI), Dr. Suresh Reddy told News India Times, “International graduates are well trained, and on par with American graduates. Allowing international graduates to work as healthcare workers in the United States after they complete the licensing exams is a huge step in healthcare delivery in US especially in areas of need.” Dr. Reddy who’s also the Past President of the Indian-American Medical Association, emphasized “It’s a win-win situation for all those who are involved.”
Calling it “a groundbreaking step to alleviate critical labor shortages in the healthcare sector”
Upwardly Global, a national organization dedicated to assisting immigrants and refugees in leveraging their international credentials to relaunch their professional careers within the United States commended Governor Pritzker’s legislations.
According to Upwardly Global, the announcement comes after more than a year of extensive work between Upwardly Global, Illinois State Rep. Theresa Mah, Ph.D. (D-Chi.), IDFPR, the Illinois State Medical Society, as well as both national and local advocacy groups. The collaborative effort has been focused on tackling the issue of untapped talent among IMGs within the State.
“Illinois is setting a new standard for the rest of the country when it comes to internationally trained medical professionals,” said President and CEO of Upwardly Global, Jina Krause-Vilmar, in a statement. “Upwardly Global is proud to have co-created this legislative win, which recognizes the value of internationally trained healthcare professionals who, despite their expertise, often remain on the sidelines during critical health crises.”
Founder and former President of AAPI, Dr. Navin Shah, told News India Times, “I welcome the move of Governor Pritzker which will be helpful for patients in the State of Illinois.
Already, 80,000 Indian doctors in the United States are doing well in training as well as in practice. Not only are they taking good care of patients but also training new doctors. This is a great step given the huge shortage of healthcare professionals in this country.”
In the 1980s, Dr. Shah worked to achieve equality for international doctors alongside US physicians. In 1987, along with the support of his colleagues he helped replace “Foreign” with “International” rebranding Foreign Medical Graduates (FMGs) as International Medical Graduates in the battle against discrimination.
“There is growing demand for healthcare workers across the nation. Between 2017 and 2021, states from Arizona to Virginia saw an increase in the number of online job postings for unique healthcare worker positions. Immigrants often punch above their weight, representing a larger share of workers in healthcare roles like physicians, surgeons, dental hygienists, and respiratory therapists than their share of the population,” pointed out a special report “The Growing Demand for Healthcare Workers: A State-by-State View” by the American Immigration Council.
The report which highlights the critical contribution of immigrants in alleviating significant workforce shortages within the state-level healthcare sector, underscored, “Although there is a growing need for healthcare workers, many immigrants who received specialized training abroad cannot practice in the State. In 2021, many immigrants with healthcare-related professional and doctorate degrees were working in a healthcare occupation that did not require one.”
Owner of Simply Smiles, in Ashburn, Virginia, Dr. Aman Sabharwal, told News India Times, “One of the biggest challenges we face in healthcare is access to care. For example, my home State of Virginia currently faces a shortage of dentists and hygienists, particularly in rural areas. I believe by streamlining the licensure process for internationally trained healthcare providers we can improve our access to care for all patients.” (News India Times)