Trump's immigration policies could turn away doctors from hospitals that need them most

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Match Day is unavoidably stressful for most medical school graduates. They have handed their future to an algorithm, and, come March 17, will learn what hospitals have accepted them into a residency program where they will spend the next three to seven years completing their medical training. But there's an added layer of anxiety this year for nearly 1,000 international graduates, according to medical school officials.

A report from The Boston Globe found that hospital administrators, who are currently compiling lists ranking the candidates they would like to hire, are fearful that choosing graduates from one of the seven Muslim-majority countries previously targeted by the President Trump's enjoined travel ban could leave them without a full staff when their new rotations begin.


The president has said that he will be signing a new executive order sometime this week, which has only cast questions about visas and travel logistics into further uncertainty for medical graduates and hospitals. If one of the graduates accepted into a residency program is later barred from entering the United States, hospitals may be scrambling to care for patients, administrators said.

From the Globe:

Dr. Darrell G. Kirch, chief executive of the Association of American Medical Colleges, said “hospitals are being given an impossible choice” between hiring the best candidates, regardless of nationality, and ensuring they have residents ready to care for patients in July.

“This has served our country so well,” he said of the system used to funnel foreign medical graduates into the United States, “and it’s a tragedy that it’s being disrupted by uncertainty.”


There are more than 10,000 licensed physicians in the country who graduated from medical schools in countries targeted by Trump's previous executive order. And as the Globe notes, many of them work in underserved communities—including rural areas that overwhelmingly went for Trump in the 2016 election.

Dr. Ali Fadhil, who worked as a translator for Americans during the Iraq War, is one of them. In an interview with The New Yorker last month, Fadhill, who is currently an internist in Georgia, talked about what it has been like to care for patients as an immigrant in an area that voted heavily for Trump and what it could mean for his hospital come Match Day:

The residency I come from, the Atlanta Medical Center, [serves] mostly uninsured people, very poor people coming in there with end-stage diseases. This is where I trained with, I would say, 28 other residents. Most of them are immigrants. Usually, this time of year is when the residency match system [matches students to hospitals]… The problem is, I was just talking to my program director this morning, and basically they don't know what to do. A lot of people they interviewed are from Iraq, from Sudan, she literally said about 30% of people from Sudan, 30% from Iraq. There are a lot of people coming from these countries.


But the residency matching program isn't the only way Trump's policies could hurt the hospital. Fadhil also worries that many of his patients will lose insurance if the Affordable Care Act is repealed. According to estimates from the Economic Policy Institute, the number of people without insurance in the state would increase by 71% if the health care law is repealed.

On a personal level, Fadhil said his children have experienced an uptick in harassment since Trump won the primary and then the election: "It's a daily, psychologically tormenting issue for them." And so his family will soon be leaving Georgia to start a new life in California. "This area is just not a place for me to live," he said.