Was Your Doctor Educated Abroad?

By Laura Strickler and Josh Scheinblum

A quarter of all doctors practicing in the United States were trained overseas and a new reportraises questions about the education they receive.

The Government Accountability Office report notes that students who study medicine abroad have a harder time passing medical licensing exams than students educated in the United States. In 2008, 29 percent of graduates educated overseas failed their clinical skills exams, compared to 3 percent of medical students who studied in the U.S.

The GAO authors indicate there are multiple factors that could lead to a discrepancy in scores between American medical students and their foreign counterparts such as; "proficiency in English and the extent to which foreign schools may or may not focus on preparing students for the exam."

U.S. students also seek medical education overseas and they are often subsidized by taxpayer dollars. According to the government, federal student loans for overseas medical education added up to $633 million in 2008.

The GAO found that American students say one of the top reasons they seek medical education abroad is because it's easier to get accepted at foreign schools.

While the report says that disciplinary measures taken against foreign educated physicians are low across the country, foreign trained doctors in Florida were accused of malpractice more often. Floridian international medical school graduates make up 38 percent of the state's doctors but accounted for 59 percent of their state's medical license revocations.

The GAO recommends that more information be made available for those considering overseas medical studies and calls for the verification of data from foreign medical schools.

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