The United States physician workforce and international medical graduates: trends and characteristics
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BACKGROUND: International medical graduates (IMGs) have been a valuable resource for the United States physician workforce, and their contribution to the United States workforce is likely to increase. OBJECTIVE: To describe the historical trends and compare the characteristics of IMGs to United States medical graduates (USMGs) in the United States. DESIGN: Longitudinal analysis of the American Medical Association Physicians' Professional Data (AMA-PPD) database using the 1978-2004 files and a comparative analysis of the characteristics of a random sample of 1,000 IMGs and a random sample of 1,000 USMGs using the 2004 file. MEASUREMENTS: Historical trends and characteristics of IMGs in the United States. RESULTS: Over the last 26 years, the number of IMGs in the United States grew by 4,873 per year reaching a total of 215,576 in 2004, about 2.4 times its size in 1978. The proportion of IMGs increased 0.12% per year, from 22.2% in 1978 to 25.6% in 2004. In 2004, compared with USMGs, IMGs were older, less likely to be board certified [Odds ratio (OR), 0.68; 95% CI, 0.53 to 0.86], less likely to work in group practice (OR, 0.60; 95% CI, 0.37 to 0.98), more likely to have Internal Medicine as practice specialty (OR, 2.10; 95% CI, 1.62 to 2.71) and more likely to be residents (OR, 1.52; 95% CI, 1.07 to 2.16). CONCLUSIONS: Over the last quarter century, the IMGs provided a significant and steady supply for the United States physician workforce that continues to grow. Policymakers should consider the consequences for both the United States and source countries.
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