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IMG Program at UCLA

Addressing the shortage of Hispanic doctors

 While the steps toward becoming licensed may seem straight forward, Hispanic doctors face two major hurdles: There are only 5,000 open residency slots for some 16,000 unlicensed IMGs, and Hispanic doctors who receive their education in Latin American countries are usually trained through Spanish-language courses. These graduates are at a significant disadvantage when compared to other countries’ graduates who are trained in English.

“In Latin America the language of instruction is in Spanish,” Dowling and Bholat explained to VOXXI.  “The second requirement [to successfully pass] is one needs to study full time for these exams and take a very good review course such as Kaplan.  Kaplan currently has sites in eight cities in India yet only one city in Mexico.

“This UCLA IMG program provides a stipend so the Hispanic IMGs can study full time,” they added. “It also provides an English class and review courses both at Kaplan and at UCLA all at no cost to the IMG.   The program’s goal is to train immigrant physicians already here to become licensed to practice in California.”

Placing Hispanic doctors in underserved areas

UCLA’s IMG program doesn’t just offer an opportunity for Hispanic doctors to achieve California licensure. In exchange for the stipend and the free review courses and training at UCLA, as well as placement in a three-year family medicine residency training program, the doctors must commit to practicing in a not for profit clinic in a designated underserved community in the state for two to three years after completion of their residency training, Dowling and Bholat explained.

Addressing the shortage of Hispanic doctors is one of the primary goals of the program, and IMG heads explain the reason for the Hispanic doctor shortage in the United States is a complex topic.

“Hispanics have the largest immigrant population in the United States,” they told VOXXI. “Because U.S. and Mexico share a 2,000 mile border and a long history, it is much easier for Hispanics to immigrate here as they can come by foot, car or bus. Many have been drawn to the U.S. because of better employment opportunities here, especially for the unskilled. Of all the immigrants in the U.S. today—some 38 million, the Hispanic immigrants have the lowest educational levels and among Hispanic subgroups, immigrants from Mexico have the least education.”

In contrast, they said, immigrants from Asia, who make up another of the nation’s largest minority groups, need to travel by plane or boat and usually come with an H-2 visa for skilled jobs such as engineering or to seek graduate degrees in U.S. universities. Of all immigrants to America, Asian immigrants have the highest education levels.  They are also over represented among the physician population in both California and the nation, said Dowling and Bholat. Because they have advanced degrees, they live in neighborhoods with better schools and can mentor their children and support them educationally to pursue training in medicine or other sciences.

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