On March 30, 2012 Peter was in Washington D.C. as a member of the International Medical Graduates Taskforce to meet with the offices of Maine’s congressional delegation about the Conrad State 30 Improvement Act (S.1979). Since 1994, the Conrad State 30 Waiver program has been used by medical facilities throughout the U.S. to employ nearly 9,000 international medical graduates in medically underserved areas. These physicians who are in the U.S. in J-1 exchange visitor status for post graduate medical training would otherwise be required to return to their home countries upon completion of their training programs. In Maine, from 1997 -2011, 268 J-1 physicians have come to work in medically underserved areas under this program. The Conrad State 30 program is due to sunset on September 30, 2012 and Senator Kent Conrad (D-ND) has introduced legislation, the Conrad State 30 Improvement Act (S. 1979), which seeks to permanently reauthorize the program and to enact certain improvements to the program. The text of the bill itself can be found at http://thomas.loc.gov.

The U.S. is experiencing a critical shortage of physicians which only promises to get worse. Nearly 20 million Americans currently live in areas which lack physicians. According to the American Medical Association by the end of this decade there will be a national shortage of approximately 90,000 physicians. Other studies predict shortages of even greater magnitude. The physician shortage is particularly acute in rural areas and inner cities, which historically have had difficulty attracting physicians. The shortage also involves primary care medicine in particular, which in recent years has attracted fewer and fewer medical graduates. Even with recent efforts to increase the number of U.S. medical school graduates, the physician shortage is only likely to get worse due to a confluence of factors. The U.S. population is aging. As people get older studies show they require more medical services. Secondly, our physician population is also aging. It is estimated that nearly 30% of actively practicing U.S. physicians will be retiring within the next 10 years. Further, recent health care legislation, if upheld by the courts, will provide insurance to between 30- 35 million Americans who have not previously had medical insurance. All of these factors contribute to a perfect storm scenario.

J-1 physicians have been a lifeline for our health care system. They are more likely to be engaged in primary care post graduate medical training and enter primary care practice than U.S. physicians. In many areas of the country J-1 physicians are the only source of primary care health. They also represent the best and the brightest from their countries and have been shown to actually have better medical outcomes after they enter the medical field in the U.S. than their U.S. counterparts. To lose this important lifeline would be a terrible blow to our health care system. I urge you to please write your members of Congress to support the Conrad State 30 Improvement Act (S.1979).

Update: I am pleased to report that a few weeks after I met with Senator Collins’ staff I was informed that Senator Collins had signed on as a co-sponsor of Conrad State 30 Improvement Act.

For more information please contact Peter Landis at pjl@landisarn.com.