Grand Concourse-based Essen Healthcare seeks to open doors for international medical graduates

Grand Concourse-based Essen Healthcare seeks to open doors for international medical graduates
Dr. Sumir Sahgal, president and CEO of Essen Health Care (c), speaks to the international medical students who are seeking training at the Jacobi Medical Center symposium on Wednesday, December 14.
Photo courtesy of Essen Health Care

A locally based private practice medical network is ‘paying it forward’ by helping internationally trained doctors gain residencies at American hospitals.

Grand Concourse-based Essen Medical Group, a network of 170 private practice physicians founded by Dr. Sumir Sahgal, an Indian immigrant who has practiced medicine in the borough for over 20 years, held their International Medical Graduate Symposium at NYC Health + Hospitals / Jacobi Medical Center on Wednesday, December 14.

IMGs played a key role in growing Essen from a single office in 1999 to a network of 170 doctors in private practice today, said Dr. Sahgal.

The third-annual IMG Symposium is an effort to ‘pay it forward’ by helping IMGs pursue their dreams in the midst of a critical doctor shortage in the United States, he said.

“As the number of IMGs have increased, the number of residency spots really has not increased as much as the need for doctors and primary care physicians,” said Sahgal, adding that this effects both IMGs and American-trained physicians.

The high cost of training doctors in their residency years within hospitals, totaling close to $500,000 per doctor and the quality of U.S. medical graduates can make competition fierce for IMGs seeking a hospital residency program, he said.

At the conference, Essen Health Care’s Dr. Shervin Mortazavi presented information about a new effort that the company is undertaking that could benefit qualified IMGs by offering workforce experience: a clinical clerkship program.

“In a field that is becoming very competitive, having a hands-on U.S. clinical internship can be a game-changer,” said Mortazavi.

Much of the symposium focused on ways that the IMGs can build up their resumes, as well as interview preparation and learning medical lingo popular in the United States, said Sahgal.

With 15,000 foreign doctors not getting placement in American residency programs each year, a number that he expects to grow, there is a lot of medical talent that could be used in the borough, said Sahgal.

Frequently, IMGs, many with prestigious medical credentials from abroad, work at menial jobs because they cannot find the help they need to enter the medical field in the United States, he said.

They often train for other medical careers that do not require a lengthy residency, like nurse practitioners or doctor assistant, he added.

“We want to create a platform where the information can be disseminated to these international medical graduates,” said Sahgal, adding “We feel that there is a huge need right now, so if organized medicine does not fill it, it would be people who make a business out of it.”

Speakers at the symposium included Dr. Prang Mehta, senior vice president of the Department of Medicine at Methodist Hospital; Dr. Amit Saxena who directs Essen’s Nursing Home division; Dr. David Jakubowicz, president of the Bronx County Medical Society.

In addition to the conference at Jacobi, Essen established a non-profit called NYREACH to engage partners and provide workforce training that could benefit IMGs, said Sahgal.

NYREACH has established a primary care training program with Lehman College that can help IMGs become nurse practitioners and stay in the medical field, he said.

Reach Reporter Patrick Rocchio at (718) 260–4597. E-mail him at Follow him on Twitter @patrickfrocchio.

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