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22 percent of Oklahoma doctors trained in foreign countries, records show

by Andrew Knittle Modified: October 1, 2012 at 11:31 am •  Published: October 1, 2012

In smaller counties, that ratio looks significantly different.

Hughes County has only one doctor for its 14,154 residents, which gives the rural county the second- lowest concentration of medical doctors. Four counties in Oklahoma have no licensed medical doctors.

“There is a need for any new doctors, especially in rural areas, plus we've got a large number of doctors who are reaching retirement age,” Kelsey said. “Because of this, I think, you're going to see an increase in foreign-trained doctors ... that will continue and grow for some time.”

Degrees abroad

While the study released in 2010 found that doctors trained outside of the U.S. provide patient care that is on par with their U.S.-educated counterparts, it also revealed some details about Americans who attend medical school abroad.

The study, which provides an analysis of 244,153 heart failure and heart attack cases in Pennsylvania, found that patients of American doctors who went to medical school abroad had higher death rates and experienced longer hospital stays compared with other groups.

Doctors born and educated outside of the U.S. had the lowest death rates, while American doctors who earned medical degrees at domestic universities were in the middle, according to the study.

Of the 2,199 foreign-trained doctors licensed in Oklahoma, 967 were born in the U.S. but left the country to earn their medical degrees.

Kelsey said he couldn't comment about the study's findings regarding U.S.-born doctors who received their medical training abroad. He said the licensure board has not studied the issue and that such an inquiry hasn't been requested by board members.

“I guess the only issue that has come up is how many are from offshore medical schools ... Caribbean schools as opposed to countries we're more familiar with, like India,” Kelsey said. “The issue that comes up there is what quality they are. Some of them have been around for a long time now and have become more readily accepted.

“Some of the new ones that crop up, sometimes, the board will not approve licenses from them because we just don't know enough about the medical school.”

Kelsey said he thinks U.S.-born students often seek medical degrees outside the U.S. because they couldn't get into domestic programs.

“Medical school is hard to get into, here in the United States,” he said. “Usually, there's not a huge concern about that unless they just don't do well on their exams.”

by Andrew Knittle
Investigative Reporter
Andrew Knittle has covered state water issues, tribal concerns and major criminal proceedings during his career as an Oklahoma journalist. He has won reporting awards from the state's Associated Press bureau and prides himself on finding a real...
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