As legal battle goes on over immigration ban, worries remain about impact on doctors

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Worries persist how the Trump travel ban will impact foreign-born doctors.

With a court hearing set today over the legality of the Trump administration’s ban that blocked travel from seven countries, worries persist about the impact on the foreign-born doctors who practice medicine in the United States.

Foreign-born physicians play a critical role in the delivery of medical care in the U.S., and the travel ban has prevented numerous doctors from getting into the country, according to The New York Times.

A federal judge in Seattle blocked key parts of the ban last week, but the Department of Justice has filed a brief urging a federal appeals court to reinstate the restrictions, according to a separate Times report. The court scheduled an hour-long oral argument today and any ruling will almost certainly be followed by an appeal to the Supreme Court, the report said.

Arguing it was necessary to prevent terrorists from entering the U.S., President Donald Trump signed an executive order Jan. 27 imposing a 90-day ban on travelers entering the U.S. from seven predominantly Muslim countries: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. In the U.S., more than 15,000 doctors are from those countries, the Times said, quoting statistics from Medicus, a firm that recruits doctors for hard-to-fill jobs.

While a federal judge in Seattle lifted the travel ban last Friday, some doctors have been unable to enter the country, the Times said. One of them is Hooman Parsi, M.D., an oncologist from Iran whose visa has been delayed, preventing him from starting work at a California practice. “We need him desperately,” Richy Agajanian, M.D., the managing partner of the Oncology Institute of Hope and Innovation, told the newspaper. The practice has delayed the opening of a new office it built to serve more patients.

The healthcare industry is concerned that making it difficult for foreign-born doctors to enter the U.S. will only make a doctor shortage worse as these physicians often work in small towns, in rural areas, in poor urban neighborhoods and in Veteran Affairs hospitals, the Times said.

Secondly, there is a fear the ban will cause foreign-born doctors, who feel unwelcome here, to look elsewhere for work, according to a ProPublica report. Doctors said the ban has created anxiety and uncertainty even among practitioners from countries it doesn’t include. 

“Overall, the thing that attracts people to America is the society, the people, the freedom to pursue your dreams,” Imran Ali, M.D., a professor of neurology at the University of Toledo Medical School, told the publication. “If that paradigm changes then what’s the reason to come?” asked Ali, who left Pakistan to complete his training in the U.S. and has raised three children in Ohio.

Numerous medical organizations have criticized Trump’s order and its potentially negative effect on doctors, other healthcare workers and patients seeking care here from foreign counties. The ban has also created fears about the impact on international medical students vying for training programs at U.S. hospitals, as well as young doctors in training already working here.