Zahraa Al-Turaihi and Hussein Al-Sudani served as doctors in emergency rooms in Iraq during the war against ISIS. Now they’re immigrants who are living in suburban Cleveland, Ohio, and ready to help fight the coronavirus pandemic, but they can’t — at least not until July.
By Natasha Chen
After three years of transferring paperwork, retaking exams and sitting for grueling interviews, they were thrilled to “match” this month into residency programs in Philadelphia so they can complete the supervised training required to practice medicine.
But their residencies don’t begin until July 1.
“When you’re sitting there, you (have) everything, you want to contribute, but you can’t,” Turaihi told CNN.
At a time when retired American doctors and nurses are being called back into service to ease the strain on US hospitals, thousands of immigrants who were medical professionals in their home countries sit on the sidelines.
Those who have matched into residencies must wait for the programs to begin. Others hoping to “match,” struggle with language barriers and the cultural nuances of American job interviews. Then, there’s the lengthy and often complex process of transferring professional records and meeting stringent US licensing requirements.
As US coronavirus cases mount, some red tape is getting slashed. But more can — and should — be done to help trained foreigners more quickly enter the American medical work force, said experts including Jina Krause-Vilmar, CEO of Upwardly Global, a nonprofit that helps such professionals secure US accreditation.
“This is a time where we really need all hands-on deck,” she said.