Doctors From Banned Countries Provide 14 Million Medical Appointments A Year In U.S., Analysis Finds

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There's a shortage of doctors in America that's been years in the making. Projections show that within the next 10 years, the U.S. will need between 15,000 and 35,000 more doctors than it has now.

A group of Harvard and MIT graduate students in economics has put a sobering spin on that fact. They analyzed data on licensed physicians working in the United States who are from the six countries the Trump administration is temporarily barring travel from with its new executive order: Iran, Yemen, Somalia, Syria, Sudan and Libya.

The researchers found there are 7,000 doctors in the U.S. from those countries. They provide about 14 million medical appointments a year for patients. The researchers are wondering how the order will affect those doctors, future doctors, and patient care for Americans.

Peter Ganong researched this report, which is called The Immigrant Doctors Project. He joined WBUR's All Things Considered to discuss what prompted him to conduct this research.

Interview Highlights

On immigrants addressing this workforce gap

There are 1.2 million doctors' appointments in Michigan alone provided by these doctors, 880,000 appointments in Ohio. Basically the map of the sort of Rust Belt Midwest is the map of where these doctors are most concentrated ... I think this is an area that has a dearth of physicians, and when there's demand and no supply, immigrants will help us to basically address that gap in the medical workforce.

On where we'll see the effects first

There's a stock of doctors, but if we cut off the flow of new doctors coming in, we now know exactly where these doctors were providing services. The first holes where this is going to show up is going to be, basically, unfilled residency slots because of this executive order.

On the impact in Massachusetts

In relative terms, Massachusetts is not as affected as those other places... [But there are] between 125 and 250 doctors in eastern Massachusetts who are providing care today from these specific six countries that we've talked about.

On where most of the doctors from the six countries work

The bottom line, I think, is that we should be very concerned about the consequences of this executive order for patient care. One sort of particularly striking irony that has come out of our research is that some of the states where these doctors that we've talked about are most concentrated are Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia. These are states that voted for Trump. These are states where Trump supporters, in polls, seem to support the executive order. And I think it's a sad irony that this is the places they'll be most hurt, potentially, in terms of medical care by the executive order.

This article was originally published on March 07, 2017.

This segment aired on March 7, 2017.


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Lisa Mullins Host, All Things Considered
Lisa Mullins is the voice of WBUR’s All Things Considered. She anchors the program, conducts interviews and reports from the field.


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Lynn Jolicoeur Producer/Reporter
Lynn Jolicoeur is the field producer for WBUR's All Things Considered. She also reports for the station's various local news broadcasts.



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