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Undocumented immigrants may apply to Loyola med school

Updated: July 16, 2013 6:13AM

Undocumented immigrants are now welcome to apply at Loyola University Stritch School of Medicine in an unprecedented move school officials hope might spread to the rest of the medical community.

“We’re happy to be the first, but we hope we’re not the last,” Linda Brubaker, the school’s dean said on Thursday.

Loyola is waiving legal residency as a requirement and is working to help students receive loans for tuition and fees from the Illinois Finance Authority, since they cannot receive federal aid. The inclusion of undocumented applicants came in response to President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which began in June 2012 and created the opportunity for young adults brought to the U.S. as children to land two-year renewable work permits.

“They are just like everyone else. They can apply for a residency training in pediatrics or internal medicine, and they complete their training, and they can do that in Illinois or in other states,” Brubaker said.

Mark Kuczewski, director of Loyola’s Neiswanger Institute for Bioethics & Health Policy said the step will benefit the patient population by diversifying its physicians.

“In many cases, they’ve done everything right. They have been living in the U.S. bi-culturally, and for the most part are really well equipped to be serving our multicultural population,” Kuczewksi said. “It’s just an injustice to turn them away, when they really are Americans in every way except on paper.”

Applications are being accepted until Oct. 15 for students who will begin medical school in July 2014.

Brubaker said she expects hundreds to apply, with 10 to 12 getting offers of admission.

“Some of these students — we haven’t seen all of the applications — but the ones we’ve seen, I’m not sure I could have competed with them to get into medical school,” she said. “Very stellar academics, very rich cultural backgrounds.”

The school says admissions slots are not being adjusted to make room for the undocumented. And the only threat to the program is the stability of the deferred action program, which can change in a new presidential administration.

Latino community leaders are commending the school for its decision.

“Our short-sighted immigration policies have kept talented students — would-be doctors — in the shadows for too long, conspiring with the forces that are causing our country to fall behind emerging nations like China and India,” Maria Esther Lopez, director of El Valor said in an email. “I commend Loyola University Chicago for this bold and visionary move. The world is changing and those that do not see that will be left behind.”

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