• Simone Brown

The Arduous Path to Practice

As I have mentioned before, I act as my mother’s caregiver, so over the last ten years, I have accompanied her to countless doctor’s visits. We became connected to most of the specialists through referral by her primary care physician (PCP). Looking closely at the stack of business cards, I noticed that ten of the seventeen are foreign born. I never stopped to think about their qualifications or where they went to medical school, or the process they went through to practice medicine in their adopted country, I just trusted the recommendation of her PCP. After reading, When the Doctor Doesn’t Look Like You (New York Times), I have greater understanding of some of the struggles they experience practicing in the US.


First, to clarify some identifying categories:


Foreign-born doctors who have graduated from medical school here in the US obviously attain their training and licensing just like US citizens.


It might seem strange, but American citizens who have graduated from international medical schools (think Caribbean) are considered Foreign Medical Graduates!


Surprisingly, foreign-born physicians who have practiced medicine in their own counties, even for many years, must go through the same liscensure process as those just out of medical school.


Foreign Medical Graduates, whether US citizens or foreign-born, go through an arduous regulatory process before practicing in this country, a process that includes verification of medical school diplomas and transcripts (ECFMG), residency training in American hospitals (The Match!) and the same national three-part licensing exams (USMLE) and specialty tests that their medical school counterparts in this country take.


Of course, there is no way to know where or how my mother’s doctors earned their medical degrees unless look for the diploma on the wall or ask (Next time, for sure!). I have learned not to assume anything about the path they have taken that has brought them to the place of caring for my mother. But in any case, I am grateful for their perseverance and dedication.



Chen, Pauline W. “When the Doctor Doesn't Look Like You.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 12 Aug. 2010, www.nytimes.com/2010/08/12/health/12chen.html.

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