I am an experienced doctor. Let me practice medicine and take care of those who need it.

Being a refugee in any country is not easy. When I was a child, my family fled the war in our native Iraq and resettled in Syria. There were a lot of obstacles, but I attended school and studied medicine at the University of Aleppo. I did my residency and became a dermatologist.

In 2012, the escalating war in Syria forced my family to move back to Iraq. I worked in dangerous conditions, with bombs flying over both medical centers in Baghdad and in Homs, where I lived. Threats were made against the doctors. People were kidnapped. Looking back, I can’t believe I worked under those conditions.

In 2014, my family got the call we had been waiting for five years. We were allowed to resettle as refugees. Despite the threats in Iraq, leaving what we knew was a difficult decision. But the opportunity to live in peace was far more important than the struggle we knew we would face as newcomers.

We had two weeks to pack our bags, say goodbye, and board the plane to a new life in Chicago. I was hopeful but realistic about the challenges ahead. I knew it would take time to reestablish my medical practice, but I thought it would eventually.

Eight years later, I am a US citizen. But the obstacles I face in practicing medicine here seem insurmountable.

It is destructive. I studied rigorously in Syria and then practiced dermatology in two different countries. Yet here in America, I have to repeat all those years of my life if I want to be a doctor again. I have spent thousands of dollars for four necessary medical exams. I passed with flying colors.

But the test was only the beginning. I also had to repeat my residence. But you also can’t apply to residency without completing a series of internships, which cost the intern a total of $6,000.

As a refugee, getting that kind of money is not easy, and my chances of being approved of residency are slim. according to Harvard Business ReviewOf course, only half of graduates of international medical programs applying for US residency programs secure a place. I have been applying to residency programs for three years hoping for a match.

Last year, I paid $5,000 in application fees. I am saving as much as I can from my current job as a home care aide. I also take a second job as a medical transcriptionist, earning $15 an hour, because I have to support my parents, who are 83 and 74.

It doesn’t make any sense. There is an acute shortage of health care workers in America, the situation created by our growing population and the COVID-19 pandemic. according to American Immigration CouncilIn the larger metro counties of Illinois, health care job postings increased by nearly 60% between 2017 and 2021. This increase was even greater in smaller areas; Postings were 245% in small/medium metro counties and 105% in rural counties.

Even then Estimates of the Migration Policy Institute that some 263,000 immigrants and refugees with degrees in health are currently under-employed. Research also indicates that foreign-trained doctors are more likely to serve in low-income areas where residents have less access to health care services.

In January, I saw a ray of hope. In response to COVID-induced shortages, government JB Pritzker temporarily Allowed foreign-trained doctors to care for patients under the supervision of a licensed physician who had not completed US residency. But the program could not be publicized. When I tried to apply for jobs under an emergency order, clinics and practices said they hadn’t heard of it.

My friends have settled in Sweden and Germany who already practice medicine. In those countries, if you already have a medical degree and experience, you can work medically after passing an exam. For me, it’s hard not to despair. How will I avoid working in low paying jobs for the rest of my life?

The tentative policy, tested in Illinois, showed that regulatory change could be in the works. Our state representative Theresa Month, D-Chicago, and her Healthcare Working Group created a . Maketask Force To help ease the barriers faced by doctors like me. But we don’t just need a task force; We need action.

Why not make the emergency order permanent? I want the underprivileged of Illinois to have health care. I want immigrants, who have so much to offer, to be able to make a real contribution. Let international doctors do the work. Everyone stands to gain.

Sura Alsfar is a dermatologist from Iraq. She settled in Chicago with her family in 2014.

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