Battling brain drain: training doctors in Ethiopia

Physicians participating in the OB-GYN training program. Image credit: Senait Fisseha
Physicians participating in the OB-GYN training program. Image credit: Senait Fisseha

ANN ARBOR—Brain drain is so severe in Ethiopia that the nation’s health minister has complained there are more Ethiopian doctors in Chicago than in his own country.

The good news is that the East African nation has one of the world’s fastest-growing economies and is recovering from the nightmare decades of civil war and famine. Tackling the health care crisis is high on the priority list of the government, which has opened 13 new medical schools in the last two years. But training the doctors is still a huge challenge.

One physician who is playing a key role in Ethiopia’s bold medical initiative is Senait Fisseha, an associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Michigan. She’s leading a U-M effort to develop a postgraduate training program for doctors of obstetrics and gynecology that is fast-becoming a national model for Ethiopia.

Fisseha said that U-M has learned from its work in other African nations—especially Ghana—that one of the best ways to retain medical talent is to offer doctors training and other opportunities to advance their careers.

“People don’t want to leave their country if they have the option to stay there. Nobody wants to be a second-class citizen somewhere else,” Fisseha said. Read more

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