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Supporting Physicians, Medical Educators, and Medical Regulators during COVID-19
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As U.S. Licensing Authorities Seek to Expand Workforces, ECFMG|FAIMER Can Verify IMGs
 
In the United States, the individual states are responsible for setting medical licensure requirements for physicians in their jurisdictions. Individual state medical licensing authorities set licensure requirements both for graduates of U.S. medical schools and for international medical graduates (IMGs). State medical licensing authorities set requirements both for physicians in their states’ training programs and for their physicians in unsupervised practice.
 
For IMGs who have decided to seek training in the United States, ECFMG|FAIMER certifies their readiness to participate in such training programs. This certification process includes passing portions of the United States Medical Licensing Examination® (USMLE®). It also includes verifying their medical education credentials, including their final medical diploma, directly with the IMGs’ medical school. ECFMG does not recruit physicians for U.S. training programs, practice, or any other purpose, including emergency situations.
 
We are aware that many U.S. states have waived certain requirements for licensure and/or license renewals in response to the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic, as summarized by the Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB). ECFMG|FAIMER stands ready to serve as the trusted authority for information about IMGs—information that state medical licensing authorities may need to determine if IMGs meet state licensure requirements.
 
At the physician’s request, ECFMG will verify whether an IMG is certified by ECFMG and has passed portions of the USMLE. Our credential services offer basic identity verification, as well as primary-source verification of the authenticity of medical education credentials. At the physician’s request, ECFMG|FAIMER will provide verifications of previously verified credentials or will verify new credentials. The medical credentials verified by ECFMG include medical diplomas, medical school transcripts, licenses, and certificates of registration from around the world. ECFMG|FAIMER has notified the FSMB, the governors of certain states, and the National Governors Association that it can verify information about IMGs who wish to serve in this time of crisis.
 
State medical licensing authorities, hospitals, and other institutions/agencies that would like assistance in verifying the ECFMG Certification status, USMLE exams, or credentials of IMGs may contact casemanager@ecfmg.org. IMGs who wish to offer their services should contact their local hospital or state medical licensing authority.
 
ECFMG|FAIMER does not license physicians and, therefore, cannot answer questions about whether individuals are eligible to provide health care services and what roles these individuals might play in providing care, on either a temporary or permanent basis. Please contact individual state medical licensing authorities with these questions.
 
Advocating for Matched IMGs with U.S. Department of State
 
Over the past three weeks, ECFMG|FAIMER staff have been in daily communication with officials at the U.S. Department of State (DOS) to communicate specific concerns related to COVID-19 and foreign national physicians participating in, or seeking to participate in, U.S. residency and fellowship training programs. These communications directly resulted in the following developments:

  • Working in partnership with the National Resident Matching Program® (NRMP®) in response to DOS' temporary suspension of routine visa processing around the world, including the J-1 and H-1B, we provided information to DOS about the number of foreign national physicians who matched to U.S. training programs and the country of citizenship for those who matched. As a result, DOS instructed consular posts around the world to resume visa processing for medical professionals.
  • Following the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education’s (ACGME’s) posting of its Response to Pandemic Crisis, ECFMG|FAIMER asked that DOS confirm that J-1 physicians are permitted to engage in any/all clinical assignments and training activities permissible under the new ACGME guidelines. DOS provided confirmation.
  • DOS also confirmed that it would “push a two-month extension to program end dates in the government database [SEVIS] on active records with a program end date between April 1-May 31, 2020 in order to provide exchange visitors the opportunity to complete either their educational or training programs, or continue to finalize travel plans to return home.” DOS further indicated that it will continue to review this issue and will make the same provisions for those J-1 physicians whose programs end in June and July, if necessary. 
  • We sought and received authorization from DOS to begin accepting electronic Statements of Need (SONs) from home country governments. The SON is a regulatory requirement for all J-1 physicians and, previously, only original letters signed and sealed from the home country’s Ministry of Health were permitted per DOS regulation.  
We have been sending direct communications to representatives at training institutions and to currently sponsored exchange visitor physicians, as developments warrant. We have made a number of updates to the ECFMG website and continue to maintain an active presence on Twitter @ECFMG_J1. We’ve also conducted two webinars for teaching hospital personnel and members of the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) Group on Resident Affairs (GRA) to answer COVID-19 related questions. The first two webinars attracted hundreds of attendees.
 
Modifications to ECFMG|FAIMER Credential Verification Processes and Institutional Outreach
 
Like ECFMG|FAIMER, many institutions around the world have transitioned to working remotely to comply with calls for social distancing. The need to transition from physical offices to conducting business virtually presents new challenges for primary-source credential verification services.
 
In response, we have made several modifications to our primary-source credential verification procedures to leverage electronic communications and enhance flexibility to meet the needs of institutions and physicians, while maintaining the integrity of our verification services. We also have conducted outreach campaigns to institutions worldwide, requesting that they advise us of any delays or other issues with the verification process and to encourage them to verify credentials electronically. The goal of these efforts is to mitigate potential delays in obtaining verifications from institutions impacted by COVID-19.
 
Issuance of Interim ECFMG Certificates
 
One of the requirements for ECFMG Certification is verification of the authenticity of an applicant’s medical education credentials, including the final medical school diploma, with the issuing medical school. ECFMG is prepared to issue Interim Certificates to IMGs who have matched to U.S. residency positions that start in July if their medical schools are unable to provide their final medical education credentials. The Interim Certificates will allow these individuals to begin their programs on time and to receive Standard ECFMG Certificates after verification of their final credentials is complete.
 
CSEC Centers Temporarily Closed and USMLE Step 2 CS Testing Suspended Through May 31
 
All Clinical Skills Evaluation Collaboration (CSEC) test centers are currently closed, and administration of USMLE Step 2 Clinical Skills (CS) has been suspended. The test center closures and suspension in testing began on March 16 and was recently extended through May 31.
 
CSEC Support Staff are in the process of contacting impacted examinees. The following related changes are also important to keep in mind.
  • The eligibility periods for all examinees scheduled to test March 16 - May 31 will be automatically extended to March 31, 2021 and rescheduling fees will be waived. 
  • Scheduling functionality in the Step 2 CS Calendar and Scheduling system has been temporarily suspended in order to allow CSEC Support Staff to manage the large number of examinees impacted by the closures.
  • Changes to the Step 2 CS score reporting schedule will be necessary and announced as soon as determined. 
Please read the full announcement.
 
Top Frequently Asked Questions from IMGs Related to COVID-19
 
Q: How can I reschedule my Step 2 CS exam that was cancelled due to the test center closures?
A: CSEC staff are currently working to reschedule examinees whose appointments were cancelled due to the CSEC test center closures. In the coming weeks, CSEC staff will e-mail examinees whose testing appointments have been impacted by Step 2 CS test center closures.

Q: What if the CSEC test centers do not reopen on June 1?
A: We recognize the additional stress that test center closures and continuing uncertainty are putting on examinees. We will share more information as we are able. The health and safety of examinees and test center staff are the most important considerations in our decision-making process.
 
Q: My school does not participate in the ECFMG Medical School Web Portal (EMSWP), and I was instructed to have a Certification Statement (Form 183) completed in order to register for the USMLE exam(s). How am I able to register for the exams if I am unable to get this form completed and submitted to ECFMG?
A: Please have your school contact EMSWPAdmin@ecfmg.org to sign up for our on-line Status Verification program.
 
Q: How can I help?
A: IMGs who wish to offer their services should contact their local hospital or state medical licensing authority. The state medical licensing authority is responsible for determining whether physicians meet current licensure requirements. At the IMG’s request, ECFMG will verify for hospitals and state medical licensing authorities whether an IMG is certified by ECFMG, has passed portions of the USMLE, and whether ECFMG|FAIMER has verified the authenticity of the IMG’s medical education credentials. For more, read As U.S. Licensing Authorities Seek to Expand Workforces, ECFMG|FAIMER Can Verify IMGs above.
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