Guest Commentary

International medical graduates keep Wichita strong, vibrant

Wichita has been richly blessed for many decades by the hard work, intelligence and compassionate care provided by physicians who went to medical school in other countries.

Simply put, Wichita and its medical community would not be as strong, vibrant and entrepreneurial without these physicians.

According to a 2015 study, international medical graduates — who must pass a U.S. medical licensing examination, be certified by an educational commission and go through a U.S. medical residency program in order to practice medicine here — make up about a quarter of the physicians in the United States.

These physicians are particularly needed in rural or other underserved areas and in certain specialties. They make up more than 40% of the primary care work force in the United States and more half of those caring for older Americans.

The Medical Society of Sedgwick County has 182 members who graduated from medical schools in 39 different foreign countries. If I also count retired MSSC members, the country total increases to 49.

The most-represented countries among our practicing physicians are Lebanon and India, with 43 and 39 members respectively. Syria is next with 14, followed by Pakistan, China, Philippines, Jordan, Kenya and Mexico, which have five to eight members each.

Some of the other countries include Algeria, Argentina, Australia, Bangladesh, Bosnia, Columbia, England, France, Greece, Guatemala, Nepal, Nigeria, Peru, Saudi Arabia, Scotland, Slovakia, Sudan, Taiwan, Ukraine and Vietnam.

The Medical Society also has other members who were born or raised in another country but who immigrated here and attended a U.S. medical school.

In addition to the medical care they provide, many of Wichita’s international medical graduates are involved in community organizations and causes. In the past 22 years, the Medical Society has had four presidents who were international medical graduates.

Despite the many contributions of these physicians, some people may not realize how important international medical graduates are to Wichita — or the challenges they may face coming to America.

The Medical Society hopes to better educate its members at a special membership event on Oct. 1. A panel of physicians will talk about their medical school experiences and journeys to the United States.

I also want to publicly declare how much the Medical Society appreciates these physicians and how glad we are they made Wichita their home.

It is difficult to contemplate what this community would look like without the presence of immigrant physicians and their families. They are us. We are all one.

Dr. Michael Lievens is president of the Medical Society of Sedgwick County.