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‘Brain Waste’: Highly Skilled Immigrants Struggle To Fill Workforce Gaps Part 2

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As a greater proportion of college-educated immigrants flock to California, they face barriers to getting good jobs — a “brain waste” estimated to cost California and other states billions of dollars per year in lost individual earnings and tax revenues.

Speaker 1: 00:00 Immigrants who are physicians, engineers and lawyers and their home countries often face huge challenges when trying to find employment in the U S and the second part of a California dream series. We hear from an organization that helps immigrant healthcare professionals find work in California communities where they're needed more KQ EDIS for Rita Jampala Romero reports.

Speaker 2: 00:23 It's a bit of a miracle that Wilmer Garcia Ricardo is now a medical resident at the San Joaquin general hospital. South of Stockton

Speaker 3: 00:31 has been years of studying sacrifice

Speaker 2: 00:34 Garcia. Ricardo studied family medicine in Cuba and practiced for seven years. He came to the U S in 2012 through a now defunct humanitarian parole program for Cuban medical professionals, but he says he was then left on his own to figure out how to get licensed to practice again in America, buying medical textbooks on Amazon and

Speaker 3: 00:55 getting into blogs and forums online of different medical doctor for other countries who were doing the same process.

Speaker 2: 01:04 Meanwhile, he worked as a patient aid and a nursing home.

Speaker 3: 01:07 So that was like, you know, being a doctor in January, 2012 to be at the bottom of the health care system in America.

Speaker 2: 01:16 That's what [inaudible] the migration policy Institute calls brain waste. She estimates that in California it costs 9 billion annually in lost earnings and millions more in lost state and local taxes.

Speaker 1: 01:30 Half of immigrants who all come into the United States now have a lot of education that can become a, an important talent pool if their skills up to good use.

Speaker 2: 01:41 Got to Seattle. Ricardo spent five years and more than $10,000 to pass the tough licensing exams and applied to medical residency programs so he could work as a doctor.

Speaker 3: 01:52 I would say that I applied to 166 program and I receive one interview invitation.

Speaker 2: 02:00 He was not accepted anywhere, but he didn't give up. It was a unique program in California that finally gave him the help he needed to get into a residency. The international medical graduate program at UCLA gives Spanish speaking immigrant physicians classes and hands on experience with patients so they can better compete for residency spots. Spots that are extremely limited, especially in the places where they're needed most. If I had a magic wand, I would say, let us get some additional residency positions available in our most underserved areas in California. Dr Michel Boulet cofounded the program, the doctors commit to working at least two years in underserved communities and most of the hundred and 40 bilingual graduates still work in those areas. Says bullet. She has high hopes for dr Wilmer Garcia. Ricardo is going to be a role model to the Latino. He's going

Speaker 4: 03:00 to be a role model for those people to know that, you know what? I have a doctor that understands me. I have a doctor who's going to be there for my family

Speaker 2: 03:11 in a small exam room at the San Joaquin general hospital, Garcia. Ricardo is finishing up a consultation with a patient, Garcia Ricardo says, without the UCLA program, he wouldn't be able to work as a doctor here. He says, before this residency, he felt like a fish out of water, flopping around and gasping for air,

Speaker 3: 03:35 and then you put the fish back in. The water does this same feeling I had when I had a white coat back and I were as corrupt and I went to the ER, an urgent care

Speaker 2: 03:46 Garcia. Ricardo says he's found his calling as a doctor here in the U S with a patient population of many Spanish speaking agricultural and factory workers in the San Joaquin Valley and [inaudible] Romero [inaudible].

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Maureen Cavanaugh and Jade Hindmon host KPBS Midday Edition, a daily radio news magazine keeping San Diego in the know on everything from politics to the arts.