March 04, 2007

More Indian Doctors head to the US

In a sixties phenomenon that is making a comeback, Indian doctors are again heading for American shores. Thanks to scarce MD seats — made even more scarce by reservation — doctors are again queuing up outside the offices of visa consultants.

India produces 30,000 MBBS graduates every year, But less than 50% of these students get a MD seat. There are too many MBBS doctors and too few MD seats, leading to a funnel-like situation. So many doctors have no option but to go abroad.

The USMLE is a three-stage process. Step 1 and Step 2-CK (clinical knowledge) exams can be taken in India while Step 2-CS (clinical skills) has to be taken in the US.

But it's still easier for an IT professional to get to the US on a H-1B visa than a doctor who has cracked the USMLE. Most doctors initially go on a J1 (exchange visitor) visa.

Under this category, doctors have to abide by a two-year foreign residency (in this case, the home country) rule after completing their MD and fellowship programme. They can avoid foreign residency by opting for a waiver job i.e. working in an under-privileged district in the US for two years.

After that, doctors must find universities or hospitals who are willing to sponsor them under a H-1B category. Only a lucky few manage to bag a H-1B sponsor offer after clearing Step 3 of the USMLE.

So while many IT professionals manage to get permanent residency at the end of their six-year H-1B visa tenure, for doctors the wait for a green card can stretch almost 10 years.

Another category of students eying residency programmes in the US are Indians who have got their MBBS degrees from Russia or other East European countries. To be a qualified practitioner in India, such doctors have to pass a few more examinations conducted by the Medical Council of India (MCI). In such a scenario, many of these doctors end up exploring options abroad.

For some, it's the sheer choice of specialities that's a draw. Arati Pradhan wants to specialise in geriatrics after her MBBS degree. "Only a couple of institutes in India offer a programme in geriatics while in the US, there is no dearth of universities offering the programme. I stand a better chance there," says Pradhan.

Options apart, the lure of the dollars isn't easy to pass up. Doctors who go to the US on a residency get an average annual stipend of between $40,000 and $50,000. Moreover, on completion of the residency and fellowship programmes (which last from three to seven years), medical practitioners are ensured of good pay packets if they decide to opt for private service.

Besides, there is the work environment and the promise of doing path-breaking research in laboratories that drives some of the country's best medical minds abroad.

Points out Dr Pradeep Muley, senior consultant, interventional radiologist, Batra Hospital & Medical Research Centre, "Many hospitals in the US have full-fledged research departments with budgets and good funding. Moreover, the hospital chips in with more funds if any particular research work shows signs of promise."

A couple of years back, US authorities refused to give visas to doctors but now they have relaxed their norms. In any case, the system in US is reasonably open and many non-American doctors who have gone there have done well for themselves.


shailesh said...

hey thnkks alot .for giving such a information to medical students........

Indian Doctors Online said...

Its an encouraging trend. Though India has advanced medical facilities now the research has been less compared to US and the west. Our new generation medicos will have a chance to work on the ongoing research work as well.



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