About our Participants

Doctors, nurses, dentists, and other health professionals from many different countries usually immigrate to the U.S. usually for the same reasons as other immigrant groups. Many countries have a surplus of physicians, for example, or a very limited health care infrastructure so that health professionals come here seeking employment and better economic opportunities. Others immigrate to the U.S. to flee persecution, violence, genocide, and oppressive government regimes. In addition to the stress related to acculturation, immigrant health professionals may also experience a loss of professional status and identity when they are unable to practice their true profession.

Early findings by the San Francisco Welcome Back Center on foreign-trained health professionals in California revealed a very diverse, highly-skilled population and confirmed the importance of such an initiative. For example, half of the health professionals identified were physicians, close to 25% were nurses, and approximately 12% were dentists. Other professionals included speech therapists, physical therapists, psychologists, social workers, midwives, and pharmacists.

This population of immigrant health professionals included both recent immigrants (with less than three years of residence in the U.S.) and long-term immigrants (who had resided for ten or more years in the U.S.). The most common countries of origin were Mexico, China, El Salvador, Philippines, Peru, Russia, Colombia, Nicaragua, and Ukraine.

Very importantly, the findings revealed that 69% of the approximately 1,500 immigrant health professionals initially identified were not working in the health sector. Those who were working in health were generally under-employed given their level of education and skills. For example, some foreign-trained physicians were employed as nurse aides or orderlies in hospitals - making beds, serving meals, and assisting patients with personal hygiene needs.