US physician workforce gap likely to grow with fewer applicants from Muslim countries

The number of physicians from Muslim-majority countries applying to work in the U.S. dropped between 2015 and 2018, which could cause gaps in the U.S. physician workforce to widen, a new study shows.

"The U.S. physician workforce will continue to rely on international medical graduates for some time to come," the study authors wrote, and the drop in applications for certification in the U.S. could result in wider gaps in the physician workforce.

Published in JAMA Network Open, the study included an analysis of the U.S. physicians listed in the 2019 American Medical Association Physician Masterfile and applicants to the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates certification process between 2009 and 2018. International medical graduates who seek to enter graduate medical education programs in the U.S. must first be certified by the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates.

There were more than 1 million U.S. physicians listed in the 2019 American Medical Association Physician Masterfile and 156,017 applicants to the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates certification process from 2009 to 2018.

The number of applicants for Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates certification from Muslim-majority countries increased from 3,227 applicants in 2009 to 4,244 applicants in 2015. But that figure then decreased by 2.1 percent in 2016 to 4,254 applicants. By 2018, it had dropped by 11.5 percent to 3,604 applicants.

Much of this drop could be attributed to fewer citizens from Pakistan, Egypt, Iran and Saudi Arabia applying for certification.

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