International Graduate Medical Education Program
Across California, there is a dearth of Spanish-speaking, culturally adept primary care physicians.
In Tulare County, 61 percent of the population is Hispanic, and many are monolingual Spanish speakers in this region located inland between Fresno and Bakersfield. And yet there are only 42 Hispanic physicians out of a total of 486 physicians practicing in the region.
Currently, Hispanics account for 38 percent of the state’s population, yet less than 6 percent of the physician workforce. With support from a novel, pay-for-performance initiative in which California’s 21 designated public hospitals receive Medicaid dollars in exchange for meeting pre-set milestones, an innovative UCLA project is seeking to address the gap.
The UCLA International Medical Graduate program trains Hispanic international medical graduates (IMGs) from medical schools recognized by the Medical Board of California who are legally residing in the United States with permanent residency status.
This program prepares these international physicians to become competitive candidates for family medicine residency training positions in the state. Once these IMGs complete a three-year residency program, these newly licensed family physicians will join the primary care physician workforce in this state.
“Before our program, these professionals were sidelined, ” said Dr. Michelle Anne Bholat, executive director of the program and vice chair of the UCLA Department of Family Medicine, because the IMGs are considered neither as students or licensed physicians in the U.S. “There’s been a brain waste.”
Physicians residing in the United States but who were educated abroad are classified as IMGs. Nearly 80 percent of IMGs also were born abroad. They represent about 25.8 percent of the U.S. physician workforce and 24 percent in California.
Any physician who is not a graduate of a U.S., Puerto Rican or Canadian medical school (all of which are accredited by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education) is not eligible to practice in the United States without first completing at least two years of residency training and obtaining a U.S. medical license.
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