“We now have new opportunities to recruit physicians,” says Sean Philpott-Jones, Hudson Headwaters Health Network’s Vice President for Government Relations and Grants Management.
According to Philpott-Jones, a federal program that enables the Queensbury-based network to hire foreign-born graduates of U.S. medical schools to work at its health centers will expand, helping to remedy the lack of physicians in the Adirondacks.
The Northern Border Regional Commission, whose broad focus is economic development, has agreed to sponsor a visa waiver program for physicians willing to work for at least three years in the rural, under-served areas of New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine, said Philpott-Jones.
“Current federal law allows every state the authority to issue a limited number of waivers to medical school graduates willing to practice in under-served areas who would otherwise be required to return to their home countries for at least two years,” said Philpott-Jones. “While helpful, that policy puts Hudson Headwaters in the position of competing with health care organizations located in other parts of the state.”
According to Philpott-Jones, the waivers to be granted by the Northern Border Regional Commission are in addition to those granted by the states.
“An added benefit to Hudson Headwaters is that most of the health care organizations within the designated Northern Border areas are collaborators of ours,” said Philpott-Jones.
The Northern Border Regional Commission began a study earlier this year “to understand what steps it could take to broaden and deepen our work in the health care arena,” said Rich Grogan, the Northern Border Regional Commission’s executive director.
According to Grogan, that “information gathering process” included meetings with health care providers, elected and appointed officials, representatives of other federal and state agencies as well as with leaders of educational institutions.
“The feedback we received indicates broad support for the Commission to join other partners in collaborative efforts to address the region’s shortage of nurses and qualified physicians,” he stated.
The Northern Border Regional Commission will shortly begin “carrying out the steps needed for the Commission to formally stand-up a J-1 visa program,” Grogan stated.
“Many of our communities have struggled to attract and retain physicians and nurses, which has led to a reduction or loss of health care access in some areas. If unaddressed, the health care shortages of our region threaten the well-being of residents and the vibrancy of our communities,” he stated.
According to U.S. Representative Elise Stefanik, the Northern Border Regional Commission will begin implementing its new J-1 visa program in Fiscal Year 2023.
Stefanik said the Northern Border Regional Commission agreed to sponsor a visa waiver program “following her advocacy.”
“Our rural communities face enough unique challenges,” said Stefanik. “Through the implementation of this program, more healthcare professionals will be able to work in medically underserved areas in New York’s 21st District.”
“We greatly appreciate Representative Stefanik’s efforts to expand the visa waiver program,” said Philpott-Jones.
Legislation currently before the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate would reauthorize visa waivers for foreign-born graduates of U.S. medical schools for another three years and increase the number of waivers available annually to the fifty states.