TUESDAY, Aug. 3 (HealthDay News) -- Foreign-born doctors
practicing in the United States who earned their medical degrees
abroad performed as well or better than their U.S.-born
counterparts, a new study finds.
Researchers analyzed records on nearly 250,000 patients
hospitalized for a heart attack or congestive heart failure in
Pennsylvania in 2003-2006. The study included more than 6,100
doctors, including about 4,600 U.S. medical school graduates and
1,500 international medical school graduates. The overall death
rate was 5.4 percent.
Patients of foreign-born doctors trained in overseas medical
schools had a 9 percent lower death rate than the patients of U.S.
citizens trained at U.S. schools. The comparison was more marked
with U.S.-born doctors who trained overseas; their patients had a
higher risk of dying than patients in either of the other two
groups, the study found.
Compared to U.S. citizens who sought their medical degrees in
international schools, patients of foreign-born, foreign-trained
doctors had a 15 percent lower risk of dying.
"I am reassured that the international medical graduates performed as well as U.S. medical graduates. As a patient I take comfort in that," said study author John Norcini, president and CEO of the Foundation for Advancement of International Medical Education and Research in Philadelphia. "But it also raises questions about the education of U.S. citizens who go abroad for medical school."
U.S. citizens who want to become doctors but who were not
admitted to a U.S. medical school sometimes seek a medical degree
abroad, Norcini said.
The study is published in the August issue of
About one in four doctors practicing in the United States
received their medical diploma abroad, according to background
information in the study.
Over the years, some U.S. medical professionals have raised
concerns about the quality of medical education in other countries
and the ability of an internationally trained doctor to pass
licensing exams, Norcini said. More recent studies have shown those
fears seem to be unfounded, with doctors trained in international
medical schools passing the exams with as much success as
U.S.-trained doctors, Norcini noted.
Doctors trained abroad who want to practice medicine in the
United States have to undergo a rigorous screening and training
process, including passing all of the same exams and meeting all of
the requirements as those who get their degrees in this country.
That includes completing their residency at a U.S. hospital.
While doctors in the study had medical degrees from dozens of
countries, many had diplomas from medical schools in South Asia,
especially India and Pakistan.
Dr. Ajeet Singhvi, president of the American Association of
Physicians of Indian Origin, said the study offers proof of the
quality of doctors trained overseas.
"I am delighted the study has vindicated the quality of care provided by international medical graduates," Singhvi said. "We have been saying it all along."
Many graduates of medical schools in other countries had to
overcome substantial barriers to getting their education, and have
learned how to make do with less, Singhvi said.
"To talk about the quality of care of international medical grads is moot. What they go through is exactly the same training at the same hospitals for the same number of years and [they] take the same exams," Singhvi said. "On top of that, most of those who come from foreign countries have already learned so much and seen so much from their practical experience."
Singhvi, a gastroenterologist at Loma Linda University Medical
Center in Loma Linda, Calif., has been practicing in the United
States since 1977. His son and daughter are now doctors who trained
in the United States.
Rather than be concerned where a doctor received his or her
medical degree, a better indicator of a doctor's expertise is board
certification; specialty board certification was associated with
lower mortality and shorter hospital stays, the study found.
According to the report, the mortality rates for patients
climbed along with the number of years since graduation from
medical school. Norcini recommends patients ask their doctors if
they have kept board certification current.
"We know from this study it doesn't really matter whether a doctor is an international medical school graduate or a U.S. graduate, but board certification does tell you something," Norcini said.
For more information on the medical education system in the
United States, go to the
American Medical Association.
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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