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International Medical Graduates

Message from a former IMG Regent of ACP

Faroque A. Khan, MB, MACP
Professor of Medicine
State University of New York at Stony Brook
Former ACP Regent

Q: How did you get elected as the first IMG Regent?

A: Since my election in 1995 as a Regent of ACP, I have frequently been asked this question and, in retrospect, I feel there are many useful lessons for physicians who are aspiring to take a leadership role in the ACP.

First, a brief overview of the organization. In the year 2000 there were over 100,000 members in ACP. These members are organized into local chapters. Most states have one chapter, but some larger chapters, such as California, New York, and Texas, have more than one chapter. In New York we have five. Each chapter elects a Governor for a four-year term, and the Governor is the local Chief Executive Officer ("boss") for the chapter. Several Governors have contributed to this website. Each year, of the 70-plus Governors, one gets elected as Chair of the Board of Governors, and he/she represents all the Governors at the Board of Regents. Dr. Mahendr Kochar was a Chair of the Board of Governors.

The Regents are elected to an initial three-year term, with a renewable election to a second term. No Regent can serve more than six years. The Officers of the College - President/Chair of the Board of Regents - are elected from this group of Regents. In 1995 when I was elected, there were a total of 18 elected Regents representing the various constituencies of the College - practitioners, academicians, house staff, etc. Not all 18 Regents get elected each year, just two to four vacancies become available each year. The Nominating Committee (on which I served) has the tough job of selecting from a pool of highly talented physicians a slate of candidates who represent the diverse segments of the College. The nominated slate is presented to the Governors and Regents and, based on a plurality, the new group of Regents gets elected.

The job of the Regents is to set the policy and oversee the various activities of the College. They have the ultimate authority of all activities, whether it's Annals of Internal Medicine, MKSAP, Clinical Guidelines or the In-Training Examination for House Staff.

During my six years as Regent I was privileged to work on various committees, and I chaired the Credentials Committee and the Education Committee, which is the largest committee of the College and the "hub" of all its activities.

So the question often asked is --- How did a guy from a remote part of the world - Kashmir - end up as a Regent of ACP, the largest specialty organization of physicians in the world?

The Secret of Becoming an ACP Regent

I am not sure, myself, but I feel the following played a role.

In 1993, I was contacted by the New York State ACP Governor, Dr. Eleanor Wallace, and she said: "I am tired about hearing about the complaints by IMGs in New York. I am creating a committee to address these issues, and I want you to chair it."

How could I say no to my Governor? I got a group of key New York physicians together, and we worked over a year or so and identified issues both from the IMG applicant's point of view and the program director's point of view. This resulted in a book published by ACP and titled: International Medical Graduates in U.S. Hospitals: A Guide for Applicants and Program Directors. This work won an Evergreen Award for the chapter in New York.

I was also asked by the national ACP office to help them address issues facing IMGs. This led to the first IMG forum at the annual meeting in Washington in 1993. It was clear, and the leadership heard, firsthand, the issues of discrimination facing IMGs in training, licensure, appointments, hospital privileges, etc.

Thus, the ACP leadership in Philadelphia realized that there was widespread discontent amongst its IMG members who represent over 40% of all Associates and over a quarter of Members/Fellows.

With this background, it was understandable that the College was ready and willing to have an IMG Regent, and my nomination by my Governor, Dr. Eleanor Wallace, was accepted. In 1994 I lost the election for Regent, but in 1995 I did manage to win.

As a Regent, since 1995 I have been able to sensitize and inform the Regents of some unique issues facing IMGs in the USA. We have been able to establish special programs at the Annual Sessions dealing with cultural issues, acculturation issues, etc. Joint programs have been conducted with ethnic IMG organizations, resulting in greater awareness and an increase in membership for the College - a true win-win situation.

Take-Home Message

If you have an aspiration to a leadership position in the College, whether you are a medical student, medical resident, practitioner, or academician, the starting point is demonstrating your willingness to get involved. To start off, make it a point to attend your local chapter meeting; use the opportunity of the business meeting to express your views; don't worry about your accent (the USA is made up of immigrants), and express the concerns on your mind. There is a saying: "The squeaky wheel gets the grease."

Call your local council member/Governor and volunteer your time. If given an assignment, please follow-up and show results. You will then earn respect, and your local Governor will tap you for extra assignments and maybe even nominate you for a national committee or office. Remember, in my case, if it wasn't for the initiative of my Governor, Dr. Wallace, I would not have ended up writing the book on IMGs and contest the Regent election. All politics is local. Another important piece of advice - Please participate in the election process. With a little coordination and collective effort, you can influence the outcome of the election for officers in your area - provided you VOTE. There is widespread apathy regarding this, particularly amongst IMGs.

Final Thoughts

My application for FACP in the early 1970s was rejected by ACP. It would have been easy to get angry and drop out of the College. Instead, I persisted and now, looking back, I am glad I did so. I have been fortunate in receiving more than my share of accolades from ACP - New York State Laureate Award, Mastership in the College, and as Regent chairing the key committees of Credentials (where ALL Fellowships get approved), and the Education Committee. It's been a lot of work, but I wouldn't trade it for it's been a great experience learning from others and making contributions.

Final Take-Home Message

Set your goals; aim high; roll up your sleeves; work responsibly and diligently and let nature take its course, and be patient. Good luck.

Brief Bio:

Faroque Ahmad Khan is a graduate from Srinagar, Kashmir. He trained in internal medicine and pulmonary medicine, and was a Pulmonary Fellowship Program Director for 10 years, followed by Chairmanship of Medicine for 12 years. Dr. Khan was awarded Mastership in ACP in 1993. In 1995, he was elected an ACP Regent, the first elected IMG Regent. His term ended in 2001. Dr. Khan chaired the ACP Credentials Committee and the Education Committee, and was a member of the International Subcommittee.

This article was prepared for the ACP IMG Web site in 2000.

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