As the nation’s attention has recently turned to immigration, a spotlight has fallen on U.S. doctors – many of whom were either born or trained overseas. While we’re not politicians, and will leave the debate on immigration to them, Harvard researchers recently used Doximity data to shed light on the value of foreign-born doctors to the U.S. medical system.

In this instance, our data science helped illuminate some important findings. As published in the prestigious journal BMJ, the Harvard team conducted a study that found U.S. patients treated by foreign doctors actually had lower mortality rates than patients cared for by doctors trained here in the United States. This unique observation led to headlines across the country, from the Wall Street Journal to Reuters, as well as WebMD.com.

Harvard researchers Yusuke Tsugawa, Anupam Jena, John Orav, and Ashish Jha analyzed Doximity’s extensive network of physicians, which includes nearly 70 percent of all doctors licensed to practice in the U.S., to conclude that foreign physicians meet and exceed very high standards. (Researchers also compared data from 100% Medicare Inpatient Files, 20% Medicare Carrier Files, and the American Hospital Association annual survey on hospital characteristics).

The lead author, Tsugawa, speculated that the various barriers foreign doctors must overcome to practice in the United States may lead us to attract only the most motivated, saying, “I think we are selecting the best and brightest from the world.”

Additionally, on the popular website FiveThirtyEight, four Harvard researchers, including study co-author Anupam Jena, further mined Doximity data to understand how doctors might be affected by a travel ban on immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries. Of the doctors evaluated, 8,243 were trained in those seven countries, or about 5 percent. They noted:

“Our research finds that foreign-trained doctors play an even larger role than their share of the physician workforce would suggest because of the areas and specialties in which they often practice: rural, underserved regions and specialties facing a large shortage of practitioners.”

Doximity is already the fastest growing and most popular network for doctors, and we’re proud of our contribution to leading edge research projects, such as the work produced by the Harvard team. As we grow, we look forward to developing our own research insights, in addition to continuing to support academic efforts, and are proud to play a foundational role in research that helps provide crucial context for a national conversation.