SEATTLE – The University of Washington School of Medicine has announced it has changed its policy to make illegal immigrants eligible for enrollment.
“We felt we were really catching up to the rest of the UW,” says Carol Teitz, associate dean for admissions at the medical school, according to the University Herald.
Besides UW, at least 35 other medical schools welcomed undocumented students, who are registered in the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. In addition to being enrolled in DACA, medical-school applicants must also meet certain residency requirements for their state.
DACA, created two years ago by the Obama administration, provides them a temporary quasi-legal status. The program temporarily suspends deportation and permits participants to work in the U.S.
“It’s the right thing to do,” says Benji Perin, a third-year UW medical student, who led the effort to alter the school policy, Seattle Times reports.
Daniel Low, a third-year medical student, tells the paper there has never been an attitude of “us versus them” signifying that DACA students could snatch seats away from native students. “We’re all ‘us’ – we all live in Washington, went to school together and care deeply about providing the best health care possible to our community,” Low said. “So there is no ‘them.'”
The Times notes until this year, the school would “throw away” applications of what the paper called “nonlegal residents.”
“There was a time when people were anxious about the increased competition from women coming to medical school,” Perin tells the paper.
According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, 35 schools that will accept illegal immigrant students.
The University of Washington runs the only public school of medicine for five Western states, including Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho.
The Times implies one potential reason for the change is because there’s a doctor shortage in Eastern Washington.
“There’s increasing concern in Eastern Washington that the state needs more doctors to practice in that part of the state. During the past year, the UW has been at odds with Washington State University over how best to grow the number of doctors practicing primary medicine there,” the paper reports.