The days when qualified medical professionals immigrating to Minnesota had to settle for menial work due to registration hurdles are almost over. Now there are clear procedures, guidelines and financial assistance to help trained professionals acquire licensure and accreditation to practice in Minnesota.
This roadmap to alleviate the problems of medical professionals and health providers immigrating to Minnesota was made possible thanks to a bill submitted to the state legislature by Rep. Karen Clarke. Through this April 4, 2006 bill, the state of Minnesota was able to appropriate US $ 450,000 to launch a one year-pilot project staring July 2006 to turn this problem around.
Three agencies, each to obtain $150,000 were identified to implement this project following an earlier Needs Assessment study that indicated that Minnesota had manpower shortages, especially nurses and dentists while 165 foreign medical professionals were unregistered. The three agencies assigned this pilot project are:
· The International Institute of Minnesota,
· The Rochester Workforce Center;
· The African and American Friendship Association for Cooperation and Development (AAFACD Inc).
The pilot project will be administered by the Department of Employment and Economic Development in Minnesota and the role is to assist foreign-trained health care professionals acquire licensure to practice in Minnesota. According to AAFACD Inc Project Coordinator, Anne Lutomia, her agency is currently working towards assisting 30 doctors, 22 nurses, one physical therapist, one veterinarian doctor and one clinical doctor to obtain licensure.
The medical professionals being assisted come from Liberia, Somalia, Kenya, Cameroon, Sudan, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Mexico and Burma. Training covers such areas as language proficiency, computer knowledge, interpersonal communication skills, externship, residency and internship as well as steps I, II, and III in coping with qualifying examinations.
Advocacy groups are emerging to challenge the law that stipulates that if one graduated more than ten years ago cannot get residency; and the absence of malpractice insurance makes access to residency a near impossibility and these professionals are looking for a breakthrough.
Anne Lutomia informed this reporter that some funding has been secured from Headwaters Foundation to help in capacity building for advocacy skills, to enable professionals in transition address legislative issues.
She explained that a Consultant with AAFADC Inc. Dr Wilhelmina Holder conceived the idea to assist foreign trained medical professionals meet registration needs prompting a study by Nancy Omondi, Graduate Research Assistant at the University of Minnesota. Her findings in a 2005 report on the utilization of foreign healthcare professionals in Minnesota and shortages that this category of staff can help fill forms the bedrock of this project.
AAFACD Inc was formed in 2003 by Liberian-born Burleigh Holder and his daughter Yende C. Anderson as a 501(3) c non-profit to give Minnesota an “opportunity to better understand their new neighbors.” Its role was to use the tools of acculturation and offer culturally sensitive services to empower African immigrants the means to fully integrate into Minnesota’s growth and development.
The $ 150,000 grant given to AAFACD Inc does not cover administrative costs but is designed to meet the costs of foreign trained health professional prepare and sit for qualifying examinations that will enable them register as Minnesota professionals. The money is intended also to meet the costs of acquiring deficient skills.
Other institutions that have partnered with AAFACD Inc are KAPLAN, Park Nicollet Foundation, various colleges and Universities where these professionals undergo internships.
AAFACD Inc invites other foreign medical professionals who have not registered with this program to contact the Program Coordinator, Anne Lutomia via telephone no. (651) 645-5828; or visit their offices at 1821 University Avenue, Suite # 328 at St Paul.
This pilot project is of one-year duration and it ends in June 2007 and those involved are to submit their implementation reports by October 2007.
The 2005 Study titled: “Assets and Needs Assessment of Foreign Trained Medical and Nursing Graduates in Minnesota and Utilization of Foreign Trained Healthcare Professional Graduates” explained the existing problem in the following words:
“U.S. has hundreds of physicians who have immigrated to Minnesota with a medical degree from a non-North American school and are unable to practice here. There are also hundreds of Foreign National Graduates who are pursuing the licensure process. Both groups are needed in Minnesota and have been frustrated by the lack of available assessment opportunities to enable them to qualify to practice here.
“Experts have suggested several ways to solve the problem of Foreign Trained Health Care Professional Graduates, though solutions might be costly, it requires legislation.
To address these problems, a system to facilitate participation in Externships or Observership has emerged, Need based matching or training procedures created, easing certification of doctors serving ethnic communities introduced, and a new approach in assessing qualifications that did not compromise quality of professionals is being developed.
These are some of the challenges now being tackled and the immigrant foreign-trained professionals in the medical field must come out to take advantage of these emerging opportunities.