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Statement in Support of the Training of International Scientists and Physicians in U.S. Postdoctoral Programs

As an international organization of clinicians and scientists committed to the study and treatment of blood and blood-related diseases, the American Society of Hematology (ASH) is concerned about the increasing difficulties with immigration regulations faced by foreign-born researchers and clinicians as they try to complete their training in the United States and remain here to continue their careers.


The United States is the worldwide leader in science and medical research opportunities. To reach this level of achievement, American medicine and biomedical science have relied heavily on a steady influx of talent from abroad to fill positions in its training programs. Many of these trainees go on to successful careers in the United States and elsewhere as researchers and clinicians. The fact remains that the United States does not produce enough aspiring physicians and scientists from within its borders to fill its needs. Hematology is not alone among medical and scientific specialties in its reliance on trainees from abroad, yet the discipline of hematology outside of the United States is thriving. For example, a large percentage of the growth in the ASH membership over the past five years has come from abroad. In 2005, more than 22 percent of the ASH membership was classified as international; between 2000 and 2005, ASH international membership has increased by more than 62 percent. With international hematology training programs becoming more attractive to young scientists and clinicians, the advantage that U.S. hematology training programs have in recruiting the appropriate number of trainees to fill their positions is diminishing.

Current Challenges

Recent changes in U.S. immigration policies, including delays in the issue of visas and more restrictive immigration laws, make it increasingly difficult for foreign scientists to enter this country and enroll in physician and research training programs. Academic health centers also struggle to keep outstanding qualified international scientists in the United States after they have completed their training here because of our immigration restrictions.

Moreover, U.S. leadership in scientific and technological endeavors is shrinking because of restrictive U.S. research policies—such as in embryonic stem cells—and limited research funding opportunities for young investigators, making U.S. biomedical research a less attractive option for the best and brightest medical researchers and clinicians from abroad. Whether U.S. academic health centers can fill their training program positions remains unknown: between 2003 and 2004, foreign student applications for U.S. life science graduate programs declined by 24 percent, while applications submitted by foreign applicants to all U.S. graduate schools declined by 28 percent. Overall, U.S. training programs no longer fill training positions and applications from abroad have declined.

ASH Policy

ASH supports appropriately strict U.S. immigration policies, but believes that the federal government must revise current regulations to ensure that physician and biomedical research training recruitment continues abroad. To maintain the supremacy of the U.S. medical care and research system, our country needs to maintain a significant influx of young scientists and clinicians from abroad. The Society encourages the development of a more rational system for not only bringing outstanding trainees into the United States, but also keeping exceptional international scientists in the United States after they have completed their training. With other countries instituting aggressive strategies for attracting foreign investigators and doctors, the US must implement new policies that recognize the special needs of U.S. medical and research training programs to sustain our international competitiveness.

With an increasingly restrictive research environment where funding levels are becoming problematic, our immigration policies need to ensure that academic health centers have the personnel to fulfill their tripartite mission of patient care, education, and research. To accomplish this, the United States needs a comprehensive, timely, and non-burdensome immigration policy.

Moreover, in this time of tremendous health challenges and unparalleled scientific opportunity, the United States must have a substantial cadre of highly-trained physicians and researchers. This issue is particularly relevant to hematology as our discipline struggles to fill and grow many subspecialties in hematology. To meet this challenge, U.S. immigration regulations need to be more balanced to ensure that academic health centers have the finest doctors and scientists from around the world to help patients with devastating blood diseases.

ASH enthusiastically supports the development of new immigration policies that ensure the security of our nation as well as the ability of U.S. physician and biomedical research training programs to successfully recruit and retain young scientists and clinicians from abroad.

Founded in 1958, ASH represents over 14,000 clinicians and scientists committed to the study and treatment of blood and blood-related diseases. These diseases encompass malignant hematologic disorders such as leukemia, lymphoma, and myeloma; and non-malignant conditions including anemia and hemophilia; and congenital disorders such as sickle cell anemia and thalassemia. In addition, hematologists have been pioneers in the fields of bone marrow transplantation, gene therapy, and many drugs for the prevention and treatment of heart attacks and strokes.