New Report Analyzes Legislative Strides To Permit International Physician Talent in Illinois

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Upwardly Global says new licensing models offer innovative paths to alleviate healthcare worker shortage

CHICAGOToday, Upwardly Global, the national nonprofit dedicated to dismantling employment barriers for immigrants, refugees, and asylees with international credentials, has released a new report titled “Illinois’ Trailblazing Solution to Doctor Shortages: Opening Doors for Immigrant, Refugee, and Asylee Healthcare Professionals.”

The report examines the significant progress generated by a February 2022 permit program that enabled international medical graduates (IMGs) to practice medicine in Illinois amid a healthcare worker shortage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. It also advocates for a united focus on permanent solutions to address critical healthcare shortages nationwide.

The program paved the pathway for more permanent reform earlier this year when Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker signed the 2023 Medical Practice Act into effect.

Read the full report: Illinois’ Trailblazing Solution to Doctor Shortages: Opening Doors for Immigrant, Refugee, and Asylee Healthcare Professionals

Read an IMG’s story: A Nigerian Doctor’s Journey To Fill Critical Medical Gaps in Illinois

As U.S. health systems grapple with the enduring effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, a larger looming challenge is on the rise — our drastic shortage of healthcare professionals. Upwardly Global’s report notes: 

    • The Migration Policy Institute estimates that there are 165,000 unemployed or underemployed immigrants with international healthcare degrees whose knowledge and experience could be put to use supporting our strained healthcare system.
    • The American Hospital Association predicts a shortage of over 3.2 million healthcare workers by 2026 including nurses, nurse assistants, lab technicians, respiratory therapists, and other support positions. 
    • At the same time, nearly 99 million people in the U.S. are living in an area with a shortage of physicians or designated primary care professionals, with the shortfall predicted to reach 37,800 to 124,000 physicians by 2034. 
    • Without sufficient qualified professionals at every level, our health systems are left ill-prepared to care for our aging population, and our communities are becoming increasingly vulnerable to health threats.


According to Upwardly Global’s report, several other states are now examining the underutilization of IMGs and developing policies and programs to deploy their talents in shortage areas. 

“We face a growing shortage of medical practitioners and other healthcare professionals in the United States that we can’t afford to ignore. With the right reforms and processes in place, the healthcare field is one area where well-trained immigrant talent can easily be tapped to help fill these workforce gaps,” says Jina Krause-Vilmar, President and CEO of Upwardly Global. “We are proud to be a leader in this effort and will continue to work alongside like-minded organizations and policymakers to advocate for reforms that open doors for the thousands of underemployed international medical graduates in Illinois and across the country.”

For over two decades, Upwardly Global has been advocating for policies and practices that champion workforce inclusion for internationally trained healthcare professionals. Upwardly Global has developed particular expertise in supporting IMG professionals, and our programs support both job seekers who want to relicense and those who want to pursue alternative pathways such as clinical research. To date, Upwardly Global has helped nearly 900 healthcare job seekers across the U.S. secure full-time placements, including 120 who have matched for residency positions.


About Upwardly Global

Upwardly Global’s mission is to eliminate employment barriers for low-income immigrant, refugee, and asylee professionals and to advance their inclusion into the U.S. economy. Since 2000, Upwardly Global has empowered unemployed or underemployed newcomers with the skills, career coaching, and social capital needed to rebuild their lives and careers. Learn more at

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