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Elias v. Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates

November 4, 2010

VICENTE ELIAS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
EDUCATIONAL COMMISSION FOR FOREIGN MEDICAL GRADUATES (ECFMG) AND NEW JERSEY STATE BOARD OF MEDICAL EXAMINERS (NJSBME), DEFENDANTS-RESPONDENTS.



On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Burlington County, Docket No. C-82-08.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Argued: September 22, 2010

Before Judges Cuff and Simonelli.

Plaintiff Vicente Elias appeals from the October 15, 2009 Chancery Division order granting summary judgment to defendant Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG) and dismissing his complaint with prejudice.*fn1 We affirm.

The following facts are derived from evidence submitted by the parties in support of, and in opposition to, the summary judgment motion, viewed in a light most favorable to plaintiff. Brill v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 142 N.J. 520, 540 (1995).

ECFMG is a private, not-for-profit organization, which through its certification program assesses the readiness of a foreign medical school graduate (FMSG) to enter residency or fellowship programs in the United States. ECFMG is not a subdivision of or affiliated with any governmental entity, its Board of Trustees receives no funding from any governmental entity, no individual from defendant New Jersey State Board of Medical Examiners (NJSBME) sits on ECFMG's Board of Trustees, and it sets its own standards for an FMSG's eligibility to take the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE).

An FMSG seeking a license to practice medicine in New Jersey must demonstrate successful completion of the full medical curriculum, didactic elements and clinical training prescribed by the medical school and by the country in which the medical school is located and within which the training took place, and successful completion of all of the educational requirements to practice medicine in that country. [N.J.A.C. 13:35-3.11(c).]

An FMSG must also demonstrate to the satisfaction of the [NJSBME] that he or she holds certification issued by the [ECFMG] which was granted following the attainment of a passing score on an acceptable examination and verification of his or her credentials by ECFMG. [N.J.A.C. 13:35-3.11(f).]

Consequently, ECFMG's role in this process is to verify the FMSG's credentials and issue a certification following a passing score on the USMLE. See ibid.

ECFMG certification renders an FMSG eligible to apply for admission to residency programs in the United States and to take Step 1 of the USMLE. ECFMG certification provides assurances to directors of residency or fellowship programs in the United States that FMSGs have met the minimum standards of eligibility required to enter those programs. Although ECFMG certification is accepted by state licensing boards in partial satisfaction of their requirements for licensure, including the NJSBME, it does not, in and of itself, entitle FMSGs to licensure in any state. FMSGs are still required to apply for and obtain the approval of such licensing boards in accordance with that state's requirements and procedures.

To obtain ECFMG certification, an FMSG must pass Steps 1 and 2 of the USMLE, which is a three-step examination for medical licensure in the United States and the standard medical and surgical licensing examination in the State of New Jersey pursuant to N.J.A.C. 13:35-3.1(a). To be eligible to take Step 1, an FMSG must have completed all educational requirements to practice medicine in the country in which he or she received his or her medical education, and received a final medical diploma approved by that country. ECFMG relies on the determination of the sovereign country in which the medical school is located as to what constitutes a final medical diploma. In this case, Mexico has approved the Titulo de Medico Cirujano as the final medical diploma. In order to earn the Titulo de Medico Cirujano, students have to complete a four-year didactic program, a one-year clinical internship, and one year of community service.

Plaintiff attended the Universidad Autonoma de Guadalajara Medical School (UAGMS) in Mexico from 1987 to 1991. He admits he did not complete the two additional requirements of a clinical internship and community service, which are required to receive the Titulo de Medico Cirujano. Instead, he received the "Diploma de Medico Cirujano," which merely showed he completed the four-year didactic program.

In 1994, plaintiff applied to ECFMG to take Step 1 of the USMLE. He certified that he had received the degree, "Medico Cirujano," from the UAGMS. Plaintiff failed the test. ECFMG subsequently learned that plaintiff was ineligible to take Step 1 because he did not have a final ...


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