Portantino’s Bill Offers Armenia Educated Doctors Ability to be Physicians Assistants in California

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Senator Anthony Portantino (Photo by Ross A Benson)

Recognizing the severe shortage of healthcare providers in California, Senator Anthony J. Portantino (D – Burbank) introducedSenate Bill 1041. The bill creates a pathway for foreign educated doctors to practice as physician assistants in California through a pilot program. The program establishes a partnership with Yerevan State Medical University to allow clinically trained healthcare professionals to work in healthcare at a time when our system needs more providers.

“There are many highly skilled medical professionals who reside in California but cannot practice medicine,” stated Senator Portantino. “This program would help address our healthcare provider shortage while offering immigrant doctors the opportunity to take steps to become qualified to practice their chosen craft here. It’s a win-win for the patient and the healthcare system.”

Foreign educated doctors often face challenges in leveraging their higher education qualifications in California. In particular, a significant number of Yerevan State Medical University graduates who practiced medicine in Armenia are not able to practice here.  These doctors, however, have received more clinical education than the typical physician’s assistant has. Rather than being welcomed into our healthcare system, many must accept other forms of jobs outside of healthcare because the process of undergoing licensing or certification to practice medicine is complex, time consuming, and challenging.

SB 1041 would establish a two-year Armenian Doctor Pilot Program. The program requires participants to enroll in a medical refresher course developed by Yerevan State Medical University and an accredited academic institution in California with an approved physician assistant program. It also requires classes to be provided by Yerevan State Medical University and the approved California educational institution via a distance learning program, clinical training undertaken in a federally qualified health center that serves the Armenian community in southern California. The unique program will be eligible only for permanent residents and the citizens of the United States.

“We welcome Senator Portantino’s efforts to establish the Armenian Doctors Pilot Program, which would create a pathway for Armenian educated physicians to practice as physician assistants for two years in qualified health centers in California,” stated Sarkis Balkhian, Executive Director of ANCA-Western Region. “This program is paramount not only because it provides a professional pathway for Armenian doctors to resume their medical careers but also addresses the shortage of primary care physicians with the cultural and linguistic diversity and skills required to service Armenian-Americans across California, especially those who lack the socioeconomic resources and are often left behind by the system. SB 1041 will also foster further collaboration between the medical institutions of Armenia and California.”