Oct 31, 2023

How IMGs are Shaping Medicine in the US


The medical industry has been facing an alarming problem. The current physician workforce is aging. The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) says that as of 2020, 45% of practicing physicians were over the age of 55. Fewer people are becoming doctors. And the AAMC says that by 2034, we'll have a shortage of physicians ranging from 17,800 to 48,000 primary care physicians, and 21,000 to 77,100 non-primary care physicians. It takes roughly a decade to train a physician, which means this is an issue we can't afford to delay addressing. A few different solutions have been proposed, but one is proving to be especially effective: international medical graduates (IMGs).

What is an IMG?

An IMG is a physician who gets a medical degree outside of the US or Canada. In other words, their medical school isn't accredited by a US accreditation body. They complete a clinical clerkship in this country so that they can secure a competitive residency position and ultimately practice medicine as a licensed physician.

international medical graduate

IMGs have been pivotal in the American physician workforce. In fact, the American Medical Association (AMA) reports that about 25% of licensed doctors in the US are IMGs. And, importantly, the number of practicing IMGs has grown by about 18% since 2010 — more than the growth that US medical graduates have seen over the same time period (15%).

IMGs are a Powerful Answer

The physician shortage is beyond concerning. The healthcare industry has tried other avenues. For example, clinics are increasingly sending patients to physician assistants (PAs) and nurse practitioners (NPs). But that opens up numerous other questions:

  • Do PAs and NPs have the necessary training to see patients on their own?
  • Is the quality of care being compromised?
  • What's the relationship between this and insurance reimbursement?
  • Will this lead to PAs and NPs doing even more procedures that only a licensed physician is qualified to perform?

US medical schools are also slowly increasing their enrollment rates over time. Plus, new medical schools are opening across the country. However, it's still not enough to balance out the insanely high demand for physicians. Furthermore, residency positions are still very competitive, and they require US clinical experience.

Across the country, international medical graduates have been able to fill these vital roles. Hospitals have begun the realize how valuable it is to have physicians that are bilingual and bicultural. IMGs help us to combat the physician shortage. And these positions mean that more qualified individuals have a real opportunity to practice medicine in the US.

For decades, International Medical Graduates (IMGs) have filled vacant residency positions and produced great physicians to serve the community. IMGs account for over one-third of the total residency applicant pool and fill approximately 10,000 residency slots each year. Graduates of Internal Medical Schools come back to the U.S. with the same licensing and privileges as graduates from U.S. medical schools.

While the physician shortage is still an issue, training IMGs to practice medicine in the US has proven time and time again to be one answer to the problem. This is why CHHA is so passionate about helping IMGs get through their clinical clerkship and match into the right residency program. Learn more about how we can help you.

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