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UNM doctor stuck in Jordan back at work

A University of New Mexico psychiatry professor, who was stuck in Amman, Jordan, for more than two months waiting for the U.S. State Department to approve his return visa, has returned home and back to work, according to a hospital spokesman.

The delay led to a dire situation for not only Dr. Hamman Yahya, an assistant professor in the UNM Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences Department, but also his patients because there is a shortage of psychiatrists in the state and it’s hard to recruit additional experts to the state, Dr. Maurico Tohen, the professor and chairman of the department, wrote in a letter filed in court.

“There is a critical shortage of psychiatrists in the state of New Mexico, as well as nationally, and it is difficult for us to recruit enough psychiatrists to serve our population’s needs,” Tohen wrote in a letter filed in court earlier this month. “So with Dr. Hamman Yahya’s delay in returning to his position … it exacerbates this shortage and makes it difficult to provide consistent care that patients in our state need.”

Tohen’s letter was an exhibit to a complaint for writ of mandamus filed by UNM’s Board of Regents against the federal government on behalf of Yahya, who was prohibited from traveling back to Albuquerque. The complaint was filed in U.S. District Court in New Mexico in mid-August and sought a judgment finding the delay unlawful and an order compelling the defendants to immediately adjudicate Yahya’s pending application. Court filings show the case was dismissed last week after UNM withdrew several motions.

The defendants were Mike Pompeo, the U.S. Secretary of State; the U.S. Department of State; William Barr, the U.S. Attorney General; Christopher Wray, the director of the FBI; the FBI; and the United States of America.

UNM Health Sciences officials declined to comment on Yahya’s case.

Mark Rudi, a hospital spokesman, did say that Yahya was back at work on Tuesday. Yahya and his attorney, Olsi Vrapi, didn’t return calls for comment.

Hospital officials said in court filings that his two month absence affected Yahya’s patients, who suffer serious and debilitating mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, mood disorders and substance use disorders. Tohen said he provided medical coverage at the expense of administrative responsibilities in one of the largest departments in the School of Medicine.

The complaint says Yahya is in America on a specific waiver given to only 30 physicians in the state, and it requires him to work three full years at UNM. The delay raised concerns about his ability to complete the requirements of that waiver, which may have jeopardized his ability to apply for future immigration benefits such as permanent residence.

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