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Muslim Ban: A Bad Rx for Ohio's Medical Community?

Researchers say doctors from outside the U.S. are more likely to practice in rural areas and some specialty fields experiencing critical shortages. (Phalinn Ooi/Flickr)
Researchers say doctors from outside the U.S. are more likely to practice in rural areas and some specialty fields experiencing critical shortages. (Phalinn Ooi/Flickr)
March 6, 2017

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Amid the controversy over President Donald Trump's travel ban, new concerns are being raised about how the order could affect Ohio's medical community.

Physicians from all over the world provide medical care in Ohio, and researchers from the Case Western Reserve University Center for Health Disparities say about 1 in 14 doctors comes from a Muslim-majority nation. Jacqueline Dolata, research manager at the center, said that about two percent of those are practicing in rural and under-served areas.

"Proportionally speaking, that's a lot more Muslim physicians working in rural areas compared to other physicians,” Dolata said. "So, it's not that they're taking away jobs that could be here for other Ohioans, they're filling a gap that isn't being met already."

She said 1 in 10 Ohioans lives in a community with a doctor shortage. One national analysis said physicians from outside the U.S. are more likely to practice in rural areas and specialty fields like internal medicine and psychiatry.

President Trump's original order barred travel from seven Muslim-majority countries and was blocked by a federal court. A revised executive order is expected to be announced Monday.

The initial travel ban was called “temporary” when it was announced, but Dolata said its timing couldn't have been worse. Medical schools are currently in the process of making their picks for residency spots, which is very competitive. She said she's worried some hospitals might think twice about selecting students from Muslim-majority countries.

"They don't currently hold a green card or a visa, they're applying for the work to get here,” Dolata said. "So, we think that the trickle-down could be really detrimental, especially as these decisions are being made around residency and the future doctors that are going to be here in Ohio."

Data from the Association of American Medical Colleges showed 1 in 4 doctors practicing in the U.S. are international medical graduates. In response to the President's travel ban, the American College of Physicians released a statement saying it opposes discrimination, religious tests, refugee bans, and denying entry to people with legal visas.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH