Physician Migration: Views From Professionals in Colombia, Nigeria, India, Pakistan and the Philippines

Astor, Avraham


Article written by 2007 DPDF Rethinking Europe: Religion, Ethnicity, Nation Fellow Avraham Astor, T. Akhtar, M.A. Matallana, V. Muthuswamy, F.A. Olowu, V. Tallo, and R.K. Lie, featured in Social Science & Medicine, Volume 61, No. 12:

There has been much debate recently about several issues related to the migration of physicians from developing to developed countries. However, few studies have been conducted to address these issues in a systematic fashion. In an attempt to begin the process of generating systematic data, we designed and distributed a questionnaire addressing several core issues surrounding physician migration to respondents selected on the basis of their special expertise or experience in India, Nigeria, Pakistan, Colombia, and the Philippines. The issues addressed relate to the reasons physicians migrate to developed countries, how migration is related to the structure of medical education, the effect that migration has on the health care infrastructure of developing countries, and various policy options for dealing with physician migration. Though responses varied somewhat by country, a desire for increased income, greater access to enhanced technology, an atmosphere of general security and stability, and improved prospects for one’s children were the primary motivating factors for physician migration. A majority of respondents believed that physicians in developing counties are provided with highly specialized skills that they can better utilize in developed countries, but respondents were ambivalent with respect to the utility of educational reform. Responses varied significantly by country with regard to whether physician migration results in physician shortages, but there was widespread agreement that it exacerbates shortages in rural and public settings. With respect to policy options, increasing physician income, improving working conditions, requiring physicians to work in their home countries for a period following graduation from medical school, and creating increased collaboration between health ministries in developed and developing countries found the most favor with respondents.