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Health

Americans Treated By Foreign-Educated Doctors Live Longer, Study Says

International doctors can keep elderly patients alive longer than US medical graduates, according to a new study.  

The study, which was done by Harvard researchers and published in the British Journal of Medicine, compared elderly American patients treated by doctors who attended schooling outside the US to patients treated by those who attended American medical schools.

It found patients were less likely to die within 30 days of treatment when treated by doctors with global schooling. 

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Currently, one quarter of doctors practicing medicine in the US have had international medical training. But President Trump’s new ban on immigrants from seven countries could set a precedent for a less-welcoming environment when it comes to recruiting quality internists and medical professionals from abroad.

The study found lower mortality rates for elderly Medicare patients who were treated by international graduates as opposed to their US trained peers. 

The study analyzed data over a four year between 2011 and 2014. Harvard researchers looked into reports from 45,000 doctors who treated a total of 1.2 million patients over the age of 65 to test the difference between global doctors and American-trained MDs. 

Researchers found foreign-educated doctors saved an additional life for every 250 patients treated. That added up to 5,000 lives saved by the 44% of doctors in the study who had studied outside the US. 

"Although we are uncertain exactly why foreign-trained doctors have slightly better outcomes, the US currently sets a very high bar for foreign medical graduates to practice medicine in the US," Dr. Yusuke Tsugawa, the study’s lead author and a policy and management researcher at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, told Reuters.

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"Therefore, the doctors who choose to leave their home country and manage to pass all certification exams may be very capable and motivated individuals,” said Dr. Tsugawa. 

The study doesn’t technically distinguish between US citizens who train in other countries and foreign-born doctors who immigrate to the US. However, 73% of US born doctors attend medical training in Central America and the Caribbean, and the study checked results by removing these doctors in a separate analysis. 

Over 100 doctors signed a petition urging Trump to reverse the travel ban, citing a Sudanese doctor who is unable to attend medical residency at a clinic in Cleveland, along with nine patients who were scheduled for treatment at the Cleveland Clinic in coming months. 

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Doctors from Johns Hopkins Medicine, the University of California, San Francisco, and other notable medical research facilities also called the ban a “step backward” for their field. 

This new study from Harvard comes at just the right time. America is going to need a lot more doctors in the next decade, a problem that could be made worse by immigration restrictions. The evidence provided in this study promoting the benefits of foreign-educated medical professionals is exactly what society needs right now.