International Medical Graduate Assistance Program Off to Robust Start

In 2016, Minnesota’s first-in-the-nation International Medical Graduate (IMG) Assistance   Program began helping 148 immigrant physicians seek medical residency positions or consider alternative health careers in the state. 

This is according to the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH), which issued its International Medical Graduate Assistance Program: Report to the Minnesota Legislature, February 2017, this week. The full report is available here.  

Established through bipartisan legislation in 2015, the IMG Assistance Program supports pathways to licensure for immigrant and refugee physicians. MDH estimates there are nearly 400 immigrant medical graduates from three dozen countries living in Minnesota and interested in entering Minnesota’s health care workforce.  

The report recommends that licensing options be established for immigrant physicians. These options would create additional pathways into practice for more experienced practitioners. The report also indicates the program is positioned to help expand the use of primary care, eliminate health care disparities through diversifying the health care workforce with culturally and linguistically appropriate care, and increase the number of physicians in rural and underserved areas of the state.

In response to growing demands for care and persistent health disparities, Minnesota is trying to increase its workforce of physicians by utilizing the skills of those who have immigrated here after receiving advanced medical training in other countries. Many of these medical graduates did not plan to leave their countries of origin, but ultimately fell victim to political persecution, civil unrest or war in their countries. 

According to the MDH report, about 20 percent of Minnesota physicians graduated from medical schools outside the U.S. Most arrived on “J1 student visas” to do medical residency in Minnesota and are legally allowed to remain, working in underserved areas. It is unclear whether changes in federal immigration policy will impact the program.