The role of international medical graduate psychiatrists in the United States healthcare system

Acad Psychiatry. 2012 Jul 1;36(4):293-9. doi: 10.1176/appi.ap.11040060.


Objective: International medical graduates (IMGs) make up a substantial proportion of the United States physician workforce, including psychiatrists in practice. The purpose of this study was to describe, based on current data, the characteristics and qualities of IMG psychiatrists who provide patient care in the US.

Method: Physician data from the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates, American Medical Association, and American Board of Medical Specialties were combined. Descriptive statistics provided an overview of the characteristics and qualities of IMG psychiatrists. The authors contrasted demographic and practice profiles of IMG and U.S. medical graduate (USMG) psychiatrists.

Results: International medical graduates make up almost one-third of the practicing psychiatrist workforce. Nearly one-quarter of these individuals attended medical school in India. Compared with USMG psychiatrists, IMG psychiatrists were more likely to be employed in a hospital and less likely to be Board-certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology.

Conclusions: International medical graduate psychiatrists play an important role in the U.S. healthcare system. Given their numbers and their propensity to practice in settings and areas where USMGs do not, efforts to monitor their practice patterns and qualities, both cross-sectionally and longitudinally, are warranted.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Ambulatory Care / statistics & numerical data
  • Certification / statistics & numerical data
  • Delivery of Health Care
  • Female
  • Foreign Medical Graduates / statistics & numerical data*
  • Hospitalists / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Private Practice / statistics & numerical data
  • Professional Practice / statistics & numerical data*
  • Psychiatry / statistics & numerical data*
  • Specialization / statistics & numerical data
  • Specialty Boards / statistics & numerical data
  • United States
  • Workforce