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NRI elected to top US medical board

By Aziz Haniffa in Washington, DC
July 11, 2007 04:45 IST
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An Indian-American has been appointed to the Educational Council for Foreign Medical Graduates Board in the United States.

Dr Rajam Ramamurthy, who holds the Rita and William Head distinguished Professor of Environmental and Development Neonatology chair at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio, was appointed on Tuesday.

This is seen as a major appointment for the international medical graduates and is of particular pride to the more than 40,000 Indian-American physicians, who constitute the largest international medical group in the US.

Ramamurthy will now hold one of two positions held by the American Medical Association -- the bastion of organized medicine in the country.

The ECFMG Board is a national organisation made up of representatives from the Association of American Medical Colleges, American Board of Medical Specialities, AMA, Association of Hospital Medical Education, Federation of State Medical Boards and the National Medical Association.

Ramamurthy, who is also the medical director of the Premature Infant Development Program at the UT Health Science Center, said, "I hope to bring a global perspective to health education in keeping with the programs of the ECFMG."

She told "Every year, the 125 medical schools in the United States graduate about 18,000 medical students, and there are about 22,000 residency positions that should be filled to provide critical services needed for the vast majority of the US population."

She also noted that approximately 4,000 of these positions are filled by IMG physicians, and an increasing number of these positions are filled by US-born students who study abroad.

She said: "Following 9/11, heightened security measures has made it difficult for physicians from some countries to get their visas after getting a residency position." She acknowledged that in the wake of the aborted terrorist attacks in London and Glasgow by foreign doctors, this situation would only be exacerbated.

"This has been a frustration for programs that are left with less manpower," she said, and added, "They would rather not take a chance giving the position to a physician who may not come to the US on time or not come at all."

Ramamurthy reiterated that after the most recent happenings in the UK, there will be more obstacles that will further deter the chances for graduates from any country coming into the US workforce.

Besides comprising the majority of IMGs practicing in the United States, Indians also make up the highest number of applicants for residency positions in the country.

Ramamurthy said, "These are challenging times for an entity like the ECFMG, and I am honored to be given the opportunity to serve."

She said the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin, as one of the largest ethnic medical organisations, could play a vital role in providing solutions to the physician workforce issues.

"I will be seeking input from the leadership of all ethnic medical organisations to fully understand the needs and concerns of IMGs," she said.

An alumnus of the Bangalore Medical College, from where she received her MBBS, Ramamurthy came to the US in 1967 and did her internship and residency in pediatrics at the Cook County Hospital in Chicago, Illinois, and stayed on there till 1972, first as chief resident and then as a fellow in Neonatology, before moving to Texas.

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Aziz Haniffa in Washington, DC
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