For some medical students, getting a yes or no today is more important than finding the right life partner.
Today was Match Day, the annual day of the year when medical students found out which medical institution accepted them for a residency program. It's the step that follows four years of undergraduate work at medical school, and provides practical training in one of 21 specialties over three to five years.
This year, the National Residency Match Program (NRMP) that organizes the match, said the program was impacted by President Trump's Executive Order that bans citizens from six Muslim-majority countries from traveling to the U.S.
"The consequences of the [January 27] Executive Order are far reaching for match applicants, and the upheaval it is causing is extensive," stated NRMP Chair Maria C. Savoia, M.D., and Chief Executive Officer Mona M. Signer in a statement. "The affected applicants have worked hard for many years to achieve their goal of becoming physicians, and they should not be denied that opportunity because of a blanket policy that does not consider the individual."
While federal courts have put a temporary halt to the travel ban, immigrants or student holding visas have been delayed or rejected at the border. Students who travel home on holidays or breaks fear they won't return in time to the U.S. for school or programs. Medical programs typically start July 1.
"U.S. training programs should be able to select applicants based on their excellent character and qualifications, without regard to nationality. Both applicants and programs benefit from an orderly process for entry into graduate medical education," said Savoia and Signer. "The Executive Order disrupts that process very considerably."
Institutions who have a specific number of slots for these students worry their matches will be unable to start the program on time, said NRMP's Signer.
"It seems likely that residency program directors will be reluctant to rank J-1 visa applicants because they may not be able to enter the country to begin training," she said.
Almost 36,000 U.S. and international medical school students and graduates competed for the approximate 32,000 Match Day positions.
Fewer non-U.S. citizen "international medical school graduates," or IMGs, submitted program choices this year: 7,284 in 2017 vs. 7,460 in 2016. However, a greater percentage (52.4 percent) were matched with institutions, said NRMP, the highest match rate since 2005.
About 1,800 IMGs enrolled in accredited residency and fellowship programs in the U.S. are impacted by the travel ban, according to Thomas J. Nasca, M.D. and CEO for the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education.
“These physicians are providing much needed medical care to a conservatively estimated 900,000 patients in urban, suburban and rural communities across the country annually. They are a too valued and welcomed group of colleagues,” he wrote in a statement.
“Many communities, including rural and low-income areas, often have problems attracting physicians to meet their health care needs. To address these gaps in care, IMGs often fill these openings,” wrote American Medical Association CEO CEO, Dr. James Madara last month. “These physicians are licensed by the same stringent requirements applied to U.S. medical school graduates.”
"The medical education community must support all international medical graduates and their families during these difficult times," echoed NRMP's statement.
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