dr nofal patient

The visa campaign exposes these rural doctors to danger

At the pediatrics clinic in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Dr. Ala Nofal sees up to 10 patients a day. Some of them have known from birth. Others are still treated after they graduate from high school.

“I treat these children from type 1 diabetes, thyroid problems, thyroid cancer, puberty disorders and adrenal diseases,” he said.

The experience of the course is critical. He is one of only five full-time pediatric endocrinologists in an area of ​​150,000 square miles that covers both South and North Dakota.

Like most rural areas in America, it is an area that suffers from a shortage of doctors.

“We are very fortunate that Dr. Nouvel is here. We cannot afford to lose someone with his specialty,” said Cindy Morrison, director of marketing at Sanford Health, a nonprofit healthcare system based in Sioux Falls. It runs 300 hospitals and clinics mostly in rural communities.

Related: Visa ban could make doctors shortage in America’s rural areas worse

However, Sanford Health Al Nofal and many other doctors who are crucial to the healthcare network may lose.

Dr. Nawfal's patient
Dr.. Alaa Al-Nofal [here with a patient] She is one of five pediatric endocrinologists in South and North Dakota combined.

Al-Nawfal, a Syrian citizen, is in Sioux Falls through a special workforce development program called Conrad 30 Visa Waiver – which essentially waives the requirement that doctors who have completed their J-1 exchange visa must return to their home country for two years before applying To apply for another US visa. Conrad 30 is permitted to waive in the United States for a maximum of three years as long as he is obliged to train in an area with a doctor shortage.

After President Donald Trump issued a Temporary immigration ban People from seven Muslim-majority countries – including Syria – are prevented from entering the United States, and Nawfal is unsure of his future in America.

Al-Nawfal said: “We agree that something else must be done to protect the country, but this executive matter will have a negative impact on doctors from these countries who most need them throughout America.” “Maybe they no longer want to play sports in the United States.” The lawsuit is to be forgotten after a federal appeals court Pause the ban.

Related: Trump angry after court upheld the travel ban

Over the past 15 years, Conrad has waived 30 visas It has directed 15,000 foreign doctors to under-served communities.

Sanford Health has a total of 75 physicians on these visa exemptions and seven countries included in the executive order. “If we lose Dr. Alnoval and the other J-1 doctors, we will not be able to bridge critical gaps in access to health care for rural families,” said Morrison of Sanford Health.

The ban could harm new doctors’ pipelines as well. The Conrad 30 visa waiver program is being fueled by J-1 non-immigrant medical school graduates who have completed their residency in the United States.

Rural South Dakota
Cows in a field outside Sioux Falls.

more than 6000 medical interns from foreign countries Register every year on US residency programs with J-1 visas. According to the American Association of Medical Colleges, about 1,000 of these interns from countries fell into a state of ban. J-1 visa holders who were outside the country at the time of the ban in effect were banned from entering the United States and unable to start or end school as long as the ban was in effect.

The State Department has informed CNNMoney that the government may issue J-1 visas to people from a banned country if it is “of national interest”, but will not confirm whether the shortage of doctors will Eligible for such consideration.

“The stress and anxiety caused by the short-term executive order may have long-term effects, as fewer physicians choose training programs in the states and thus increase the deficit of caregivers who want to practice in disadvantaged and rural areas,” said Dr. Larry. Dial, Deputy Dean for Clinical Affairs, Marshall University School of Medicine in Huntington, West Virginia.

Related: Obamacare’s Impact on This Alaskan City With Only One Doctor’s Office

Al-Nawfal went to the Medical College in Damascus, the capital of Syria, and completed his stay at the University of Texas with a J-1 visa. Go to a Mayo Clinic fellowship and then apply for a J-1 exemption, which he placed on Sioux Falls.

Nineteen months after committing to a three-year commitment, the Novell is either treated directly or works as a On average, a doctor consults more than 400 pediatric patients.

Most of his patients see at the Sanford Children’s Specialty Clinic in Sioux Falls, where families often spend hours on schedule. Once a month, he flies on a small plane to see patients at a clinic in Aberdeen, about 200 miles away.

Sanford Children
Many of Dr. Nouval’s patients drive hours to see him at Sanford Children’s Clinic in Sioux Falls.
Aberdeen Hospital
Dr. Nofal flies once a month to Aberdeen, Dr. To see patients in the outreach clinic.

“It’s not easy to be a doctor here,” Nofal said, referring to the long hours of work and the famous cold winter in South Dakota. “But as a doctor, I have been trained to help people whatever the circumstances and I’m proud of them.”

It is one of the reasons why Nofal and his American wife, Alysa, struggle to reconcile with the visa ban.

He said: “I have a 10-month-old child and I cannot travel to Syria now. My family in Syria cannot come here.” “Now my family can’t meet their first grandson.”

“I know if we leave, I will probably never return,” he said. He does not want to travel anywhere in the country now. “I’m afraid of how I’m going to be treated,” he said. He is also feared to be stopped at the airport – even if he is traveling to another country.

Related: Trump’s Travel Ban and What You Need to Know

The accredited Abdul Salam, who is from Benghazi, Libya, had planned to start practicing family medicine in Macon, Georgia, through the Visa Waiver Program after he completed his stay at the University of Central Florida Medical School in July.

Everything was going smoothly. Abdel Salam, who treats hospital patients and veterans, applied for visa waiver and was accepted. He signed a contract with Magna Care, which provides doctors to three hospitals in the Macon region and begins looking at homes to transport himself, his wife, and their two children during the summer.

The approved Abdul Salam
Dr.. The approved Abdul Salam with his family.

But there was one last step. For his J-1 exemption request to be fully completed, final approval must be obtained from the United States Department of State, Citizenship and Immigration Services.

“The executive order came in the middle of that process, which led to the suspension of my request at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs,” he said.

Because he is a Libyan citizen (Libya is also subject to a visa ban), Abdul Salam is afraid of the result.

“The hospital in Macon badly needs doctors. Although they employed me, I’m not sure how long they can wait for me,” he said.

“No one can argue that it is necessary to keep the country safe, but we must also preserve the health of the country,” he said. “Doctors like me who have trained in the United States in some of the best schools are assets that are not a liability.”

CNNMoney (New York) First published February 10, 2017: 7:47 PM ET

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