CHICAGO (July 7, 2010) A decline in the number of international medical graduates (IMGs) is threatening patient access to quality surgical care, according to a new study in the June issue of the Journal of the American College of Surgeons.
For years, a flat supply of new U.S.-educated medical school graduates in the specialty of general surgery has created a strong need for IMGs, graduates of medical schools located outside the U.S. and Canada. The study reveals that a decline in IMGs practicing general surgery in the U.S. is creating a "crisis of urgency" as demand for general surgeons continues to grow.
Rural areas are particularly threatened by this trend. In 2005, IMGs represented 17.4 percent of all general surgeons; now they represent only 14.8 percent. Meanwhile, since 2005, the total number of rural surgeons has declined nearly 40 percent to 998, according to researchers. By 2020, the growth of the U.S. population and proportion of people older than 65 years of age will create a greater demand for healthcare resources, including surgeons. In 2020, it is estimated that the supply of general surgeons will fall short of the demand by 1,875.
"We are currently unable to fill our general surgery residencies with U.S. medical school students," said Kyla P. Terhune, MD, a general surgical resident at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Nashville, Tenn. "In the 2009 residency match, if every U.S. senior medical student had been matched to a first-year position in any field, only 70 percent of available positions would have been filled. These shortages can have a lasting impact on patient access to care, particularly in trauma and critical care situations."
While IMGs have long been relied upon to meet the growing need for general surgeons, the number of IMGs in practice is declining. This decline, along with inadequate numbers of trainees in domestic surgery programs, has created a critical gap. To help addres
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