It’s a familiar story in California.
When Jose Chavez Gonzalez moved to the United States from El Salvador, he took any job he could get — stocking warehouses, construction, cleaning houses and working in a meat processing plant.
But unlike most of the other immigrants he worked alongside, Chavez, 38, was a doctor with eight years of medical training. He came to the U.S. in the mid-1990’s to be with his family, but like all doctors from other countries, he still had to pass the U.S. medical boards and go through at least three years of residency in order to practice here. The process can be both expensive and time consuming, so during the day he worked various menial jobs. At night he studied for the boards.
A quarter of U.S. doctors are foreign-born, mostly from countries like India that focus on training medical students to work in the U.S. Many other immigrant physicians never become American doctors, particularly those who come from Latin American countries like Chavez.
But a program at the University of California is seeking to change that, while at the same time helping to address the shortage of primary care doctors in the state. The UCLA International Medical Graduate Program offers Latino doctors a stipend along with board preparation classes, mentorship and references to help them find a good residency slot in primary care. In return, the doctors pledge to work in an underserved area of California for two or three years. Continue reading