Pitt expert details history of refugee physicians in the U.S.

Robert Schoen in a black suit

Robert Schoen, chief of the Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, in conjunction with prominent Holocaust scholar Laurel Leff, a professor of journalism at Northeastern University, has published an article in the Annals of Internal Medicine recounting the history and oppression of Jewish physicians seeking refuge in the United States during WWII.

Barred from practicing medicine in their home countries by the Nazi regime and hoping to find new opportunities, nearly 5,500 Jewish physicians successfully emigrated from Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia and other European nations to the U.S.

Many refugees were met with anti-Semitism and restricted from practicing medicine through regulations that prevented them from taking state licensing examinations. Professional medical organizations urged state medical boards to require full citizenship before foreign medical school graduates could take a licensing exam—amounting to, at minimum, a five-year hiatus in employment as the refugees waited for citizenship. Schoen and Leff tell the story of David L. Edsall, a former dean of Harvard Medical School, and his efforts to lobby on behalf of these physicians.