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    Friday, October 28, 2005

    Poaching Doctors: Here's a new twist to an old canard - instead of complaining that "foreign doctors" are taking away jobs and positions from Americans, make it look like Americans are evil for stealing doctors from poor countries:

    One of every four doctors in North America, Britain and Australia is an immigrant who attended a foreign medical school, contributing to a "brain drain" that deprives poor countries of good medical care, researchers say.

    As many as three-quarters of physicians who come to rich countries hail from less-developed ones grappling with AIDS, infectious diseases and other scourges, the study found. In the United States, for example, most foreign doctors are from India, the Philippines and Pakistan.

    .....The U.S. has the largest share of foreign doctors, with nearly 209,000.

    Africa has just 600,000 doctors, nurses and midwives for 600 million people, yet wealthy nations continue "poaching" them, Drs. Lincoln Chen of Harvard University and Jo Ivey Boufford of New York University wrote in an accompanying editorial.

    I'm old enough to remember when the rallying cry for the anti-immigrant crowd was that foreign medical graduates were making it difficult for American students to get into medical school. People complained that there were too many doctors in rural America who did not speak the language well. That it was cheaper to let these medical immigrants set up shop than to train more American doctors. And efforts were made to cut down on medical immigration. It's an interesting strategy to change the argument to make the West a villain in this story, even though the goal's the same.

    But here's a clue for the researchers. If given the choice, people usually choose a life of ease over a life of hardship. It is doubtful that American hospitals are actively recruiting doctors in foreign countries. They tend instead to brag about how many of their doctors-in-training come from U.S. medical schools. What is happening is that students from other countries who come here for training end up liking it here and want to stay.

    The same thing happens within the U.S. It's hard to get American doctors to go work in remote rural areas for the rest of their lives, or in blighted inner city neighborhoods. We tend to cluster in zones of suburban comfort - where the living is easy, the hospitals are well-equipped, and other doctors are nearby for support.

    posted by Sydney on 10/28/2005 05:38:00 PM 0 comments


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