Urgent Request to Protect Immigrant Physicians against Discrimination
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February 6th, 2017
This letter is a plea for help and recognition from a large group of Iranian Medical Graduates who are pursuing medical residency training throughout the United States. Most of us require a visa to continue or start our residency training. The immigration ban executive order which was recently signed by President Donald Trump, has negatively impacted many of us on our path to continue our contribution to the national interests of the United States of America. This issue is extremely time-sensitive as medical residency programs are in the process of ranking applicants, the deadline being February 22, 2017. As Iranian citizens, we have already gone through up to 2 years of background checks before being granted entrance into the United States.
We very much appreciate having the opportunity to live in the United States. The freedom, the democracy, the advanced health system and the world-class education system, are just a few brilliant attributes of this great country. Each of us has a unique personal story, but we all have one thing in common. All of us have willingly dedicated our lives to medicine. We have finished medical school and decided to continue our graduate medical education in the United States, the land of opportunities, where our hard work and services will directly benefit the citizens of the United States of America and humanity at large.
The decision was not easy as many of us left everything behind. We spent a lot of time, energy and resources to prepare for this journey. We had our medical degree and qualifications examined by Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG), and successfully passed the required examinations, and satisfied all the requirements of the Commission.
Among us, applicants are pursuing their medical careers in primary care to various specialties including internal medicine, neurology, obstetrics and gynecology, radiology, emergency medicine, surgery, pathology and psychiatry; many of which are among highly needed medical specialties across the United States. At this moment in our challenging path to residency, we reached the point where programs are selecting their future trainees, and the executive order, though turned down by the courts, will frighten and dissuade hospitals from sponsoring us.
As physicians, our commitment is to the best interests of the health and well-being of the patients we treat in the United States and that is unequivocal. This commitment is evident in the contributions of our fellow Iranian physicians in the advancement of medicine throughout many disciplines, from high impact scholar and clinical activities at prestigious medical institutions across the country, including but not limited to, Johns Hopkins University, Harvard University, University of Michigan, Duke University, University of Texas, University of California Los Angeles, New York University and University of Pennsylvania to treating indigent patients in medically underserved communities. Many of us are contributing to nationally funded projects. We contributed to scientific publications in various areas of medicine in prestigious medical journals and presented our scientific researches in internationally recognized medical conferences.
The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) has announced that “the United States is facing a serious shortage of physicians” and “international medical graduates play an important role in U.S. healthcare, representing roughly 25 percent of the workforce.” We represent a significant portion of the healthcare providers to the underserved areas. Our absence in these regions will deny healthcare to a large portion of the community.
Time is of the essence as the programs are now in the process of choosing the applicants and their decision might unjustly be affected by the current events. Per the latest statement issued on February 3, 2017 on the U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website, the hold on visa status change which was originally implemented as part of the executive order, has been lifted and applications to adjust status, continue to be adjudicated, meaning that those currently in the United States will be considered for visa status change. Therefore, the medical residency programs should feel reassured that these applicants can be issued the necessary visa by June 2017, when most residencies start. The programs should also be reassured that all green card and EAD holders currently inside U.S.A are safe to be chosen by programs and their status in the country is legal. We are aware that this issue is not only for the Iranian citizens, but it has also affected our fellow colleagues from Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Libya, and Somalia. We acknowledge that the United States wants to take measures against terrorism. As physicians spending our entire lives helping the people in need, we wholeheartedly acknowledge the priority of ensuring safety in this great nation. However, we believe that this new blanket ban will not achieve the goal for which it was created. We are hereby asking the National Resident Matching Program (NRMP) and the ECFMG to issue a transparent statement to healthcare organizations around the country, stating clearly that applicants should NOT be discriminated against, based on their nationality. We are also urging President Trump and the United States Congress to take appropriate measurements to reverse this discriminatory executive order against the citizens of the aforementioned countries, and produce a more realistic and practical means of fighting against terrorist invasion. Finally, we are asking the media and all citizens of the great United States of America to stand with us against this act of total discrimination, which not only affects the life of many immigrants, but will adversely influence hospitals and healthcare across the country.
On behalf of the Allied Iranian Medical Doctors, a group of over 150 physicians
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