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RVC Fellow helps push state bill to close health care worker shortage and relieve financial burden on immigrant students

Somali Health Board hosts a quarterly meeting for community members who are interested in discussing health disparities.

By Hana Gregory, Rainier Valley Corps Community Impact Fellow

Mohamed Shidane is a Rainier Valley Corps (RVC) Community Impact Fellow who was placed at the Somali Health Board (SHB), and who continually makes a great impact to his organization and within the Somali community. SHB is an organization that focuses on helping Somali immigrant and refugees by eliminating and reducing health disparities. It was founded in 2012 by a group of Somali health professionals.

Recently, Mohamed organized community members together to support a state bill (SB 5846) that helps international medical graduates gain access and residency in Washington state. SB 5846 has been passed in the state senate in March and is now in the house.

Mohamed’s involvement in this movement around SB 5846 began when he first became an RVC Community Impact Fellow, which is an RVC program that places leaders of color in grassroots, community-based organizations. These leaders are paid a living wage, mentored, and supported as they help build the capacity of RVC’s partner organizations, such as SHB.

Early on in his work with SHB, Mohammed took charge of coordinating and running their quarterly meetings. SHB’s quarterly meetings are a time and place where SHB can hear from the local Somali community and use the information gained to inform the organization’s future work.

At one particular meeting, students from the International Medical Graduates came and voiced their concerns around immigrants gaining residency and the cost that they are burdened with and lack of opportunity just to be considered for residency programs. According to the students, the testing fees and other costs associated with the process of getting a residency spot is so high that it has become a barrier POC international student accessing residency programs.

Most immigrants who come to Washington state do not have that amount of money to spend on these administrative fees, and most find a way to pay those fees and still do not get chances to be considered to get residency opportunities.  According to the bill, the legislature has found that a shortage of primary care health care providers has created significant provider access issues in Washington, and that “international medical graduates routinely face barriers to practice.”

For the last two years, Mohamed and those at SHB and other partners focused on these barriers when they lobbied at the state capital.

One way Mohamed supported the students was through giving them a platform to express their concerns to their lawmakers, in order to help guide and influence policy-making.  

The importance and intention behind the bill has not only gained support from many Washington state lawmakers, but also gained the attention of Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal.

This is exciting for Mohamed that, on a federal level, lawmakers are making it a priority to help the immigrants in our community build up and refine education systems in order to fairly gain access to the resources and opportunities they should be entitled to.

Through SB 5846, the legislature intends to aims to “establish the international medical graduate work group to study barriers to practice and make recommendations on how the state can implement an international medical graduate assistance program by January 1, 2022,  to assist international medical graduates in integrating into the Washington health care delivery system.”

“Passing the bill through the state senate and house has been a great accomplishment. For SHB, it is aligned with our mission in helping reduce health disparities in POC communities,” said Mohammed. “The benefit of having more doctors in our communities that not reflect the community but also help reduce disparities that already exist. And we are proud of the partnership we have created with the international graduates and to be recognized on such a high level.”

Mohamed used what he has learned from his experiences as a Community Impact Fellow to help him be fully present for his community and to show up and build relationships that hold both himself and lawmakers accountable.

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