In an effort to address the doctor shortage in rural areas of the North Country, the Northern Border Regional Commission has launched a program to recruit more foreign physicians trained in the U.S. to work in medically underserved areas.

Lisa Vannattan, director of Physician Search for Champlain Valley Physician Hospital in Plattsburgh, said the program will allow the hospital to sponsor more doctors through the J-1 visa program.

“Currently we’re only able to consider sponsoring one, maybe two J-1 visa waivers per year,” VanNattan said, “and with this new program we’re going to be able to recruit as many as we would like.” 

Under the current visa program, Vannattan said, New York can only issue 30 waivers of the foreign residence requirement to physicians holding J-1 visas, making recruitment highly competitive. The new program will help the North Country by not putting a cap on how many physicians can be hired.

The Northern Border Regional Commission is a state-federal partnership focused on the most economically distressed counties in New York, New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine, 

VanNattan said the waivers will provide residents of rural North Country counties better access to healthcare, and she is excited to begin recruiting more physicians .