Human Resources for Health
Article number 17
The number of international medical graduates (IMGs) entering family medicine in the United States of America has steadily increased since 1997. Previous research has examined practice locations of these IMGs and their role in providing care to underserved populations. To our knowledge, research does not exist comparing professional profiles, credentials and attitudes among IMG and United States medical graduate (USMG) family physicians in the United States. The objective of this study is to determine, at the time when a large influx of IMGs into family medicine began, whether differences existed between USMG and IMG family physicians in regard to personal and professional characteristics and attitudes that may have implications for the health care system resulting from the increasing numbers of IMGs in family medicine in the United States.
This is a secondary data analysis of the 1996–1997 Community Tracking Study (CTS) Physician Survey comparing 2360 United States medical graduates and 366 international medical graduates who were nonfederal allopathic or osteopathic family physicians providing direct patient care for at least 20 hours per week.
Compared to USMGs, IMGs were older (p < 0.001) and practised in smaller (p = 0.0072) and younger practices (p < 0.001). Significantly more IMGs practised in metropolitan areas versus rural areas (p = 0.0454). More IMG practices were open to all new Medicaid (p = 0.018) and Medicare (p = 0.0451) patients, and a greater percentage of their revenue was derived from these patients (p = 0.0020 and p = 0.0310). Fewer IMGs were board-certified (p < 0.001). More IMGs were dissatisfied with their overall careers (p = 0.0190). IMGs and USMGs did not differ in terms of self-rated ability to deliver high-quality care to their patients (p = 0.4626). For several of the clinical vignettes, IMGs were more likely to order tests, refer patients to specialists or require office visits than USMGs.
There are significant differences between IMG and USMG family physicians' professional profiles and attitudes. These differences from 1997 merit further exploration and possible follow-up, given the increased proportion of family physicians who are IMGs in the United States.
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Morris, A.L., Phillips, R.L., Fryer, G.E., Green, L.A., Mullan, F. (2006). International medical graduates in family medicine in the United States of America: An exploration of professional characteristics and attitudes. Human Resources for Health, 4:17.