We knew anecdotally of hospitals in rural areas sponsoring visas for foreign doctors because of a shortage of American doctors wanting to work there. And it made sense from an economics standpoint that foreign doctors would be the ones helping fill these shortages, in the same way that immigrants fill shortages in Silicon Valley and in our fruit fields. When we started working with the data, it became apparent that rural areas rely on doctors from the six banned countries the most. We wanted to start a conversation about the importance of immigrants to rural America and the related negative consequences of the executive order. The case of immigrant doctors seemed like a clear example of that.
We used data from Doximity, a professional network that has information on virtually all physicians working in the US. The data allowed us to figure out the number and concentration of doctors from the banned countries in each area of the US. We used academic work to estimate the number of appointments these doctors were providing each year. We worked off of the Health Professional Shortage Area (HPSA) designations made by the federal government to estimate how many of those appointments are provided in areas with doctor shortages.
We hope that our work makes the negative consequences of the executive order a part of the conversation about its merits, especially for those who currently support it. The order claims to make us safer, but the data suggest that it does not and in fact makes us less healthy. We also hope that our work provides a sense of scale for the service that immigrants provide to our communities every day.
We are motivated by a desire for the American public to evaluate policies in a way that fully appreciates their consequences. If we see an opportunity to do more work of this type, we’ll certainly take it on.
PD Soros Fellows, with many doctors among them, have been a constant reminder of why immigrants from all countries are so crucial to America’s prosperity and have kept us working hard on this project. Anything the Fellows can do to help us convey our findings to communities most affected by the ban would be terrific. If they have stories they are willing to share related to the immigration ban, we are collecting them right now on our website and plan to use them to help illustrate our conclusions. And if they have ideas for similar work that our team could tackle – something that would explain the local consequences of federal policies – it would be great to hear from them! ∎