A life-saving solution to America’s doctor shortage

Doctors are hard to come by in rural America. Nearly 20 percent of Americans live in rural communities. But only 10 percent of doctors practice there. Patients often must drive for hours to see a physician.

Such barriers to care can prove deadly. A former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently warned that “there is a striking gap in health between rural and urban Americans.” CDC research from 2017 indicates that up to 25,000 heart disease deaths and 19,000 cancer deaths could have been prevented in 2014 if rural patients had better access to health care.

The majority of graduates from U.S. medical schools have not made career decisions that help bridge the urban-rural health gap. They’ve typically chosen to pursue careers as specialists, rather than primary care physicians. By necessity, most wind up practicing in cities with populations large and concentrated enough to support their specialized practices.

Graduates of international medical schools have been far more willing to practice in the heartland, particularly in primary care. In many cases, these graduates are American citizens who went to medical school overseas and are returning to their hometowns to launch their careers.

To improve rural patients’ lives, it’s time to recruit more well-qualified international medical school graduates to America.

 

 

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