U.S. Citizens Attending Foreign Medical Schools

Gao ID: 113835 November 21, 1980

Questions have been raised about the quality of medical education in those foreign medical schools most willing to accept U.S. citizens and the adequacy and appropriateness of that education as preparation for practicing medicine in the United States. GAO believed that none of the foreign medical schools it visited offered a medical education comparable to that available in the United States because of deficiencies in admission requirements, facilities and equipment, faculty, curriculum, or clinical training. None of the foreign schools had access to the same range of clinical facilities and numbers and mix of patients as a U.S. medical school. While foreign medical schools do not receive direct Federal financial assistance, U.S. citizens attending approved schools are eligible for guaranteed student loans from the Department of Education, and veterans may receive Veterans Administration educational benefits to attend these schools. Because there are no adequate means of evaluating the education and training provided by foreign medical schools, GAO believes Congress, the Administration, State licensing authorities, and the medical profession need to consider what steps can be taken to better assure that students attending these schools demonstrate that their medical knowledge and skills are comparable to those of their U.S.-trained counterparts before entering the U. S. health care delivery system for either graduate medical education or medical practice. GAO believes that Congress should direct the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to work with State licensing authorities and representatives of the medical profession to develop and implement appropriate mechanisms to ensure that this would be accomplished. The Secretary of HHS should work with the same groups to address the current practice whereby students from foreign medical schools receive part or all of their undergraduate clinical training in U. S. hospitals. The Secretary of Education should issue regulations to establish procedures and criteria for implementing the legislative requirement that the Department ensure that foreign medical schools are comparable to U.S. medical schools before authorizing guaranteed student loans for U.S. citizens attending these schools. The Administrator of Veterans Affairs should accept those foreign medical schools approved by the Secretary of Education as a basis for authorizing educational benefits to veterans.

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