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International medical graduate dermatologists in rural and medically underserved areas: a national cross-sectional analysis


International medical graduates (IMGs) comprise a quarter of the United States (US) physician workforce but are a diminishing minority among dermatologists. Studies on IMGs in other specialties have demonstrated their importance in addressing provider shortage in rural and medically underserved areas (MUAs), but this trend has not been systematically explored within dermatology. This study aims to assess the state-by-state distribution of IMG dermatologists in the US as compared to US medical graduates (USMGs) with focus on provider density in rural settings and MUAs. A national cross-sectional study was performed on actively practicing dermatologists who submitted Medicare claims within 1 year of July 2020; rural and MUA-serving status were determined based on federally designated rural–urban Continuum Codes and Census Bureau data. Nationally, the density of dermatologists has increased from 3.4 per 100,000 persons in 2016 to 3.66 per 100,000 persons in 2020. However, 70% of US states continue to have fewer than 4 dermatologists per 100,000 persons, the estimated minimum necessary to adequately care for a population. Among 12,009 dermatologists, only 576 (4.8%) are IMGs, with disparate distribution across the US: Kansas has the greatest percentage of IMGs with the latter comprising 8.3% of its state dermatology workforce, whereas 8 states have no IMGs. Notably, a significantly greater percentage of IMG dermatologists (43.9%) work in areas designated as MUAs compared to USMGs (37.4%) (P < 0.01). In contrast, a lower percentage of IMG dermatologists (2.8%) work in rural settings compared to USMGs (4.8%) (P = 0.03). Interestingly, no significant difference was observed when rural dermatologists were further stratified by MUA-serving status. These findings corroborate the importance of IMGs in providing greater access to dermatological care in areas with healthcare provider shortage. Further studies on the underlying causes of the decline of IMGs within dermatology are needed.

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Correspondence to Vinod E. Nambudiri.

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Pan, C.X., Nambudiri, V.E. International medical graduate dermatologists in rural and medically underserved areas: a national cross-sectional analysis. Arch Dermatol Res 314, 799–803 (2022).

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  • Medical education
  • International medical graduate
  • Medically underserved areas
  • General dermatology
  • Diversity and inclusion