If Dr. Saida Mehrali Karimova winds up practicing medicine at Hannibal Regional Hospital (HRH) the native of Azerbaijan will have, in part, the Marion County Commission to thank. On Monday the commissioners approved unanimously a letter of support for her request of a national interest waiver from the state of Missouri.

If Dr. Saida Mehrali Karimova winds up practicing medicine at Hannibal Regional Hospital (HRH) the native of Azerbaijan will have, in part, the Marion County Commission to thank. On Monday the commissioners approved unanimously a letter of support for her request of a national interest waiver from the state of Missouri.

According to Susan Wathen, vice president Human Resources at Hannibal Regional Healthcare System (HRHS), Karimova is not just looking for employment, but a permanent residence in the U.S.

“This is one of the steps in that process,” said Wathen.

HRHS is working with an immigration attorney for an Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker, which is filed to petition an alien worker to become a permanent resident in the U.S., according to immigration.com. As a member of a profession holding an advanced degree Karimova is eligible to seek the petition.

According to the letter signed by the commissioners, Karimova’s “services and interests are needed in our community.”

Karimova is currently finishing up her training in New York.

“Her clinical training is very good,” said Wathen. “It’s just because she was not born in this country we have to jump through a lot of hoops to hire her as an employee.”

If all the immigration hurdles can be cleared, Karimova will be committed to working in Marion County for a period of time.

“When we file a national interest waiver and do the immigration paperwork the way we are then she gives a minimum of a five-year commitment to Hannibal,” said Wathen.

Wathen is hopeful that five years will be just the start of a long-term stay for Karimova.

“She has been to Hannibal several times to visit and likes the area,” she said. “Hopefully she will come in, love the area and stay.”

Karimova has been offered a job as one of HRH’s four hospitalists, who is a physician that treats patients during their stay in the hospital.

Asked if she felt Karimova was a good fit for the job, hospital and community, Wathen didn’t hesitate.

“I do or I wouldn’t have offered her a contract,” she said. “We bring people in that we don’t offer contracts to if they don’t seem to be a good fit.”

Physician shortage

Larry Welch, Eastern District commissioner, asked why physicians not native to the U.S. must be hired to fill some healthcare positions.

“Our country isn’t producing enough physicians to meet all the needs,” said Wathen.

When recruiting physicians Wathen looks for people with rural roots already or have a desire to put down roots in a rural area.

“I don’t want to recruit someone who was born and raised in New York who really wants to work in the city, but will accept a position here until they can find some place in the city,” she said. “Honestly, when we recruit physicians who aren’t from this area I kind of try to scare them off first and if they don’t scare off then we recruit them. Not everybody is made for northeast Missouri.”

The Hannibal hospital is taking steps to deepen its pool of potential recruits.

“As of last year Hannibal Regional has become a training site for third-year medical students and fourth-year medical students so that when we have students who are from Missouri that are interested in rural settings they are actually coming to do some of their clinical training with us,” said Wathen. “Our long-term goal in that is to get some of the Missouri born and raised (physicians) to stay in Missouri.”

Reach reporter Danny Henley at danny.henley@courierpost.com