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Influx of International Medical Graduates Presents Opportunities

Feb 22, 2017 05:45PM ● By MED Magazine
Dr. Michael Saba, Development Consultant for International Health, Avera McKennan 


MED: What is your connection with the International Medical Graduates of our region?
Dr. S: My job is to help Avera expand its work overseas. I originally came to Sioux Falls to help
Sanford start putting Children’s Clinics abroad. Prior to that, I was doing the same thing at St. Jude’s. In all three cases, I started by doing a sort of internal personnel and materials audit to determine what these institutions had to work with in terms of international opportunities.

MED: What did you find?
Dr. S: That all had physicians and researchers from other countries who were often keen to do something for their home countries. Many come from third world countries where help is needed and some offer that help through mission work. About a fifth of doctors at Avera are now foreign born and that is expected to continue to go up. In the future, as many as half of our doctors may be foreign born.

MED: What kinds of assets do you think these practitioners bring in terms of furthering Avera’s international work?
Dr. S: I think the things these doctors bring to the table are not always considered outside the realm of their particular areas of expertise. But they are also assets because of their ability to speak the language, make connections, navigate their home countries, as well as their desire to help.

MED: Besides filling a need for providers, how do you think IMGs strengthen healthcare in our region?
Dr. S: There are more and more immigrants coming into South Dakota. Not only can there be a language barrier, but they may bring diseases such as malaria that many of our doctors have never seen before. Our foreign-born doctors not only speak the language but have often seen these diseases and are adept at treating them.

In addition, new doctors are often very interested in doing international work, which is a relatively new phenomenon. Having strong international programs in place, with the support and involvement of our IMGs, can not only help keep some of our own people here but can help us recruit. It’s what progressive institutions do.