The migration of physicians from sub-Saharan Africa to the United States of America: measures of the African brain drain
Thompson, Matthew J.
Johnson, Karin E.
Hart, L. Gary
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Background: The objective of this paper is to describe the numbers, characteristics, and trends in the migration to the United States of physicians trained in sub-Saharan Africa. Methods: We used the American Medical Association 2002 Masterfile to identify and describe physicians who received their medical training in sub-Saharan Africa and are currently practicing in the USA. Results: More than 23% of America's 771 491 physicians received their medical training outside the USA, the majority (64%) in low-income or lower middle-income countries. A total of 5334 physicians from sub-Saharan Africa are in that group, a number that represents more than 6% of the physicians practicing in sub-Saharan Africa now. Nearly 86% of these Africans practicing in the USA originate from only three countries: Nigeria, South Africa and Ghana. Furthermore, 79% were trained at only 10 medical schools. Conclusions: Physician migration from poor countries to rich ones contributes to worldwide health workforce imbalances that may be detrimental to the health systems of source countries. The migration of over 5000 doctors from sub-Saharan Africa to the USA has had a significantly negative effect on the doctor-to-population ratio of Africa. The finding that the bulk of migration occurs from only a few countries and medical schools suggests policy interventions in only a few locations could be effective in stemming the brain drain.