January 6, 2024

TSOS Joins Panel Discussion at National Conference to Advocate for Refugee Doctors

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Amanda Wibben (GUSOM Y2 Student), Brandi Kilmer (TSOS), Kenn Speicher (co-founder Nova Friends of Refugees), and Elizabeth Madjlesi (Program Director, Upwardly Global). Not pictured: Dr. Aziz Jami who pre-recorded.

Their Story is Our Story (TSOS) was privileged to participate in ECDC’s 2023 National Conference, August 23-24, 2023. Addressing the theme “Hope and Resilience,” both local and national leaders and advocates responded to the challenges of the past few years and looked forward to the future of refugee resettlement with a renewed sense of optimism.

In one of the offered breakout sessions, Brandi Kilmer, TSOS’s Community Program Coordinator-Washington D.C., joined co-panelists Kenn Speicher of NOVA Friends of Refugees, Elizabeth Madjlesi of Upwardly Global, and Amanda Wibben, Georgetown University School of Medicine (GUSOM) 2nd year student, to discuss their collaborative work as a recently formed DMV Refugee Physician Advocacy Coalition in assisting refugee physicians to overcome the barriers they face to re-entering high-level medical careers.

The Coalition was born out of a Community Based Learning course requirement for GUSOM first-year students focused on addressing the medical concerns specific to refugee populations in the greater Washington D.C. area. Dr. Sarah Kureshi, who has facilitated this refugee Community Based Learning group since 2017, has researched and published papers in support of refugee physician licensure. In 2022, members of the TSOS team partnered with GUSOM students to interview displaced physicians which inspired the Coalition’s initiatives to address barriers such as: lack of time to study for required exams, lack of mentors, lack of funds, and different requirements depending on the physician’s location.

As part of the presentation, one of the interviewed doctors, Dr. Aziz Jami, shared his personal experience via pre-recorded comments.

“There have been doors that I expected to be open for entering the medical field, like starting work as a surgical assistant or a technician for myself, my wife, or any other doctors wanting to start working immediately in the medical field. Unfortunately, the legislation, rules, and regulations are applied differently in different states preventing [foreign] medical doctors from entering the medical field. I believe that the expertise of experts who are traveling to the United States could be a good asset for the medical system in the United States.”

Conference attendees from both the DMV area and other states were hopeful that they would also be able to implement similar initiatives in their states in order to capture the skills of the refugee physicians and help meet the national doctor’s shortage.

According to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), the U.S. faces a projected shortage of between 37,800 and 124,000 physicians within 12 years.

Virginia is projected to have a deficit of 3,200 doctors by the year 2030.

Listen to Dr. Aziz Jami explain the challenges and opportunities of Refugee Physicians:

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