Dr. Nitesh Jain explains why Indian physicians on the frontline feel disappointed by US immigration laws.
As America faces one of its worst crises battling the novel coronavirus, Indian doctors on the frontline have once again proven to be among the nation’s most vital healthcare resources.
Statistics show that with about 23% of the entire physician population in the US coming from international medical schools, America relies heavily on foreign professionals for its healthcare system.
Almost a quarter of these foreign physicians in America are Indians followed by Filipinos who make up 7% of international medical graduate population. On an average, every eighth appointment made to a doctor in America would be directed to an Indian doctor.
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“Especially during these extraordinary times, as the world deals with COVID-19, the contribution of Indian doctors in America cannot be underestimated,” Dr Nitesh Jain told the American Bazaar.
“The entire medical workforce in America is currently on an emergency mode and is required to be alert and available never mind their personal schedules,” said the pulmonologist who practices in rural Minnesota.
“Thousands of Indian doctors are currently on the frontline working towards the COVID-19 crisis,” said Jain, explaining there is a systemic reason for it.
“Most Indian doctors are seeing patients in rural communities in America, often because of the immigration requirements” he noted.
“Also, a majority of Indian doctors are primary care physicians such as pediatricians, gynecologists, obstetricians and internists who form the frontline at the time of any disease outbreak.”
“The Indian healthcare professionals’ contribution to the US has always remained exemplary,” Jain said.
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Thousands of these Indian physicians take pride in reporting for duty every day to ensure the rest of the population is not exposed to the crisis.
But many Indian doctors feel dejected that despite doing so much for the country, America continues to delay their right to residency.
According to immigration statistics, thousands of Indian doctors are currently stuck in a green card backlog. This means they may have to wait from ten to 100 years before they can hope to get permanent residency in America.
“There is a systemic problem behind this backlog,” said Dr Jain explaining why a specialty occupation such as medical professionals have to wait unbelievably long for green cards.
“Back in the 70’s when Indian physicians started coming to the US, the hospitals used to send cars to pick them up from airports,” he noted.
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“This is how badly America needed medical professionals,” Dr Jain said. “The immigration laws were made in the US to ensure that people from European Union are not favored and hence a 7% country cap was placed.”
“However, during the 90s with the influx of IT professionals from India, the number of Indian professionals coming to the US increased dramatically.”
“What remained unchanged was the immigration laws that too had to change with the changing times,” Dr Jain said.
“While the shortage of medical professionals still remains in America, most Indian professionals find an occupation,” he added.
“However, it must be noted that due to the stiff competition, it is only the best and the most diligent medical professionals who make the cut.”
“Despite their achievements, it is the tough immigration laws that lead to a feeling of despair in the community,” said Dr Jain who has been regularly visiting his Minnesota clinic.
“We are proud that we are able to help Americans during hours of crisis like we are currently seeing,” he said. “But it is disheartening that the Congress does not take note of our plight and considers other issues more important.”
Explaining how stringent immigration laws have been negatively impacting patients in the US, Dr Jain related the case of “a fellow Indian colleague, an oncologist (who) had to travel to India for getting his visa stamped.”
“His case was put under administrative processing and he could not return to the US for 6-8 weeks. During this time, his cancer patients who needed acute attention had to travel 50 miles to seek medical advice.”
As the world comes to terms with the reality of quarantines and staying at home to keep safe, medical professionals have earned people’s respect for their dedication.
Indian professionals in America happily serving the country they live in hope that America too gives them an equal chance.
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