Medical Center Hour and History of the Health Sciences Lecture: The Care of Foreigners

February 8, 2024 by

Location: Zoom Webinar:

Date: Feb 21, 2024 - Feb 21, 2024

Start Time: 12:00 pm

End Time: 1:00 pm

Event Link

Medical Center Hour

Eram Alam, PhD
Assistant Professor in the History of Science Department
Harvard University, Cambridge, MA

Covid-19 made apparent a major deficit in the US healthcare system: physician supply was unequal to medical care demand. To urgently address this mismatch, states allowed retired physicians to reenter the workforce, the federal government issued regulations bypassing state licensing rules, and the Trump White House took this
urgent need into account. In his June 22, 2020 “Proclamation Suspending Entry to Aliens Who Present a Risk to the U.S. Labor Market Following the Coronavirus Outbreak,” President Trump made a notable exception: healthcare professionals able to provide “medical care to individuals who have contracted COVID-19” were welcome to enter the country.

This strategy has a long history. Since at least the 1960s, the US has trained fewer doctors than it needs, relying instead on the economically expedient option of soliciting immigrant physicians trained at the expense of other countries. This talk explores the economic, political, and social conditions that inaugurated this migratory regime. Initiated during the Cold War with the passage of the Hart-Celler Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, this bill expedited the entry of Foreign Medical Graduates (FMGs) from postcolonial Asia and sent them to provide care in shortage areas throughout the country. Although conceived as a short-term stopgap measure, this practice has continued unabated for the last sixty years effectively allowing organized medicine and the federal government to defer substantive structural changes in distribution and access to care.

For more information about this event, please contact Charlene Kaufman.

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