International medical graduates embrace care of underserved U.S. kids
TrishaKorioth, Staff Writer
He can laugh about it now, but Rana Chakraborty, M.D., M.Sc., D. Phil., FAAP, was
almost sidelined by a travel requirement in 1992. After his plane landed in the U.S.,
the international medical graduate (IMG) discovered he did not have the right visa
stamped in his passport.
Fortunately, an understanding airport agent stepped in, and he was on his way to start
pediatric residency training in the Bronx, N.Y.
It was the first of many twists and turns Dr. Chakraborty navigated. Without the right
visa stamp, he could not set up a bank account or apply for a Social Security card.
While well-equipped for pediatric training, he felt ill prepared for the nuances of
acculturation. Program faculty had unspoken cultural expectations and offered little
guidance, he said.
Such feelings are common among IMGs. Despite their contributions, many IMGs report
feeling undervalued or unsupported by U.S. colleagues, according to an AAP Pediatric
Life and Career Experience Study.
Fortunately, mentors who were also IMGs guided Dr. Chakraborty through the unwritten
rules. At Rutgers University Medical School, Arry Dieudonne, M.D., taught him to be
more proactive and preemptive in his approach.
Many IMGs arrive in the U.S. to train in urban, underserved locations — places that
have a hard time attracting U.S. medical graduates. Often, they care for patients
covered by public health insurance.
“They’re serving an unmet need from the moment they begin their training,” said Dr.
Chakraborty. “After they’ve completed their training, many IMGs move straight into
underserved practices. Many IMGs move out to rural practices to places where there
is no physician for a 50- or 100-mile radius.”
Pediatric IMGs represent about 25% of all pediatricians and more than 27% of pediatric
subspecialists in the U.S. and have played an essential role in serving underserved
populations, according to a recent study.
Some will leave the U.S., but Dr. Chakraborty couldn’t stay away. After completing
medical school in Antigua and Barbuda, and a pediatric residency and pediatric infectious
diseases fellowship training in the U.S., he returned home to the U.K. for graduate
studies and did research in Nairobi, Kenya. Opportunity drew him back to America.
“I was able to do things on a larger scale (here), including serving on a number of
key national committees,” he said. “The U.S. serves as such a magnet for many excellent
physicians all over the world to come and practice and work in and then to go make
a difference not only within their immediate environment in the U.S. but also on a
As chair of the AAP Committee on Pediatric AIDS, he co-authored the clinical report
Psychosocial Support for Youth Living with HIV. He also contributed to pediatric antiretroviral therapy guidelines as a member of
a Department of Health and Human Services panel.
Now as chair of the AAP Section on International Medical Graduates (SOIMG) Executive
Committee, he is working with colleagues to guide new IMGs through unwritten rules.
The young section has accomplished a lot in the past four years, offering support
not found in manuals and textbooks. Soon, it will establish a mentorship program that
can match AAP IMG Fellows with pediatric residents, interns and trainees.
Section members also are advocates within the Academy. For example, the SOIMG and
Section on International Child Health (SOICH) submitted a resolution to protect children
of migrants, which was adopted as a top 10 resolution at the 2017 Annual Leadership
Forum. The section and SOICH also are teaming up on a joint program at the National
Conference & Exhibition Nov. 4 in Orlando.
Just as Dr. Chakraborty established roots with the AAP early in his pediatric career,
he is urging young IMGs to connect through membership in the section and the AAP.
“The AAP is their professional home,” he said. “It’s here for them and keen to make
sure their career trajectories are met as new physicians in the United States.”