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Immigrants Crucial To Keeping Americans Healthy

Press Release

Immigrants in Health Care: Keeping Americans Healthy Through Care and Innovation is written by Marcia Drew Hohn, EdD, retired director of The ILC Public Education Institute, Justin P. Lowry, PhD, and James C. Witte, PhD, both of the Institute for Immigration Research at GMU, and José Ramón Fernández-Peña, MD, of San Francisco State University and the Welcome Back Initiative.

The Importance of Immigrants

The importance of immigrants to health care in the United States cannot be emphasized enough. They have vital roles in medicine, medical science and long-term care, and they have a growing presence in nursing. Immigrants fill critical vacancies, bring education and skill from their homeland, and help to provide culturally competent care to an increasingly diverse patient population. They also play a critical role in innovations to improve the health of all Americans.

Immigrants are 13% of the U.S. population, and:
28% of physicians and surgeons
40% of medical scientists in manufacturing research and development
50%+ of medical scientists in biotechnology in states with a strong biotechnology sector
22% of nursing, psychiatric and home health aides
15% of registered nurses

India is the country of origin for more than 45,000 IMG physicians.

Forty-six percent of foreign-born (immigrant) physicians and surgeons go into internal medicine where there are vast shortages of practitioners, whereas only 15% of U.S. medical graduates do so. Immigrant physicians also practice in rural and inner-city areas where physician shortages persist.

The American Medical Association predicts the demand for physicians will exceed supply by a range of 46,000 to 90,000 individuals by 2025. Many roles will need to be filled as an aging longer-lived population puts increased demand on the medical system, as well as the Affordable Care Act, making healthcare available to more people. Foreign-born physicians and surgeons will be a critical part of meeting this demand for physicians.

International health work is dramatically increasing due to the global economy. American immigrant physicians working abroad often act as cultural bridges and brokers, which creates goodwill toward the U.S.

Foreign-born medical scientists work in the development of drugs and therapeutic interventions to cure diseases and improve human health. They are 42% of researchers in the top seven cancer research centers in the U.S., a disease that touches most of our lives.

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