Doctors Who Trained Abroad Provide Same Quality of Care as U.S. Graduates, Study Finds

August 03, 2010

Graduates of U.S. medical schools and doctors who graduated from medical schools overseas provide the same quality of care, according to a new study in Health Affairs. The study, led by John J. Norcini of the Foundation for Advancement of International Medical Education and Research, found little difference when comparing the mortality rates of patients treated by foreign-trained physicians with those who studied in the United States.

The patients treated by foreign-born doctors who graduated from medical schools abroad even had the lowest death rates. Those treated by U.S. citizens who studied at foreign medical schools, on the other hand, had the highest mortality rates, raising questions about the training provided by medical schools overseas that admit many students from the United States and the quality of students who seek admission to offshore medical schools.

About a quarter of physicians over all, including both U.S. citizens and foreign nationals, studied at foreign medical schools, and about 25 percent of physicians in the new study were trained abroad. Congress has recently taken increased notice of the training provided by foreign medical schools, passing legislation that requires schools to have at least 75 percent of their students who take a U.S. medical licensing examination pass the test, up from 60 percent under current law, for those students to remain eligible for federal student aid.

"Despite a rigorous U.S. certification process for international graduates, the quality of care provided by doctors educated abroad has been an ongoing concern," said Mr. Norcini in a written statement from Health Affairs. "It is reassuring to know that patients of these doctors receive the same quality of care that they would receive from a physician trained in the United States."