Guess Where Your Doctor Got His Degree: It's Not Here

doctorThink your doctor got his or her degree in the good old US of A?

Think again.

Recent reports estimate 30 percent of the primary care physicians in the US were educated outside of the country -- and that includes American-born docs who opted for a sunny jaunt through med school in the Caribbean.


Which The New York Times tries to tell us, in the scope of things, means diddly squat.

They still have to pass the boards HERE in this country.

If they don't know their stuff, they don't get a license. It's particularly American to think that our schools are better, so our colleges turn out better practitioners.

And let's face it: when is the last time you asked your doctor where she went to school?

Even if there's a big diploma hanging on the wall in the lobby, it tells you only that they graduated -- not where in the class they landed. So your doctor could have graduated first in her class ... or been the resident who almost got kicked out of the program.

Even the school says nothing. There's a tendency to believe an Ivy League education means you've got a winner. But all Cs from a lazy lay-about who snuck through Harvard has nothing on all As from a state school.

Does it really matter that he was born and educated in (insert country here) if he's good at his job?

This is where you have to be a good judge of character. Does the doctor seem to know what he's doing? Does he spend time with you?

With the risk of sounding xenophobic, I do have one hard and fast rule. I want to be able to understand my doctor.

An accent is fine. My daughter's first pediatrician, who has sadly retired, was born in Taiwan and spoke with accented English. He was fantastic -- and I understood every word he said.

But I once had a doctor who hailed from some Eastern European country. I couldn't understand a word he said. When I complained of breast pain, he started talking about a certain country north of India with a Buddhist bent.

You call them nipples. He called them Nepals. If only that was the worst of his manglings.

When it comes to health care, there's no margin for error. I want to be able to understand exactly how many pills I take and when, where to put that cream, and what never to do to protect my baby.

I'll accept the out-of-country degree. But please, this is one place I do ask that you speak my language.


Image via dulhunk/Flickr

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