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Commission proposes program to integrate foreign-trained physicians into Maine's medical workforce

Aimee Biba teaches a Certified Nursing Assistant course at Portland Adult Education in 2022. Biba worked as a nurse anesthetist in her native Democratic Republic of Congo, but when she immigrated to the U.S. she had to redo nursing school in order to become a Registered Nurse. A legislative commission this month published several recommendations aimed at creating a pathway for professionals like Biba to reenter the health care field in Maine.
Ari Snider
/
Maine Public
Aimee Biba teaches a Certified Nursing Assistant course at Portland Adult Education in 2022. Biba worked as a nurse anesthetist in her native Democratic Republic of Congo, but when she immigrated to the U.S. she had to redo nursing school in order to become a Registered Nurse. A legislative commission this month published several recommendations aimed at creating a pathway for professionals like Biba to reenter the health care field in Maine.

A legislative commission is proposing a new program to better integrate foreign-trained physicians into Maine's medical workforce.

As outlined in a report released earlier this month, the program would pair them with the state's four teaching hospitals, where they could hold positions similar to medical residents.

Tim Terranova, executive director of the Maine Office of Licensure in Medicine, said the commission reviewed the barriers keeping foreign-trained doctors from restarting their careers in the U.S.

"Some of the common issues include educational and training differences, licensing examinations, clinical experience and exposure, residency matching, issues related to immigration status," he said.

Sally Sutton, who represented the New Mainers Resource Center on the commission, said the plan could unlock a talented labor pool that's already in Maine.

"These are individuals who have a lot of resources and skills that they're bringing to the state," Sutton said. "As long as we can create pathways for them to put their skills to work in a way that they want to [...], then we as a state can benefit most from what they bring with them to Maine."

The commission was created last year, the first step in an effort to bridge the gap between Maine's shrinking health care workforce and immigrants with medical backgrounds.

The state of Illinois created a similar sponsorship program last year, while West Virginia and Washington State offer restricted medical licenses for certain individuals.

The commission's recommendations now head to the Maine legislature for consideration.