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1.  Postgraduate career intentions of medical students and recent graduates in Malawi: a qualitative interview study 
BMC Medical Education  2012;12:87.
Background
In 2004, the Malawian Ministry of Health declared a human resource crisis and launched a six year Emergency Human Resources Programme. This included salary supplements for key health workers and a tripling of doctors in training. By 2010, the number of medical graduates had doubled and significantly more doctors were working in rural district hospitals. Yet there has been little research into the views of this next generation of doctors in Malawi, who are crucial to the continuing success of the programme. The aim of this study was to explore the factors influencing the career plans of medical students and recent graduates with regard to four policy-relevant aspects: emigration outside Malawi; working at district level; private sector employment and postgraduate specialisation.
Methods
Twelve semi-structured interviews were conducted with fourth year medical students and first year graduates, recruited through purposive and snowball sampling. Key informant interviews were also carried out with medical school faculty. Recordings were transcribed and analysed using a framework approach.
Results
Opportunities for postgraduate training emerged as the most important factor in participants’ career choices, with specialisation seen as vital to career progression. All participants intended to work in Malawi in the long term, after a period of time outside the country. For nearly all participants, this was in the pursuit of postgraduate study rather than higher salaries. In general, medical students and young doctors were enthusiastic about working at district level, although this is curtailed by their desire for specialist training and frustration with resource shortages. There is currently little intention to move into the private sector.
Conclusions
Future resourcing of postgraduate training opportunities is crucial to preventing emigration as graduate numbers increase. The lesser importance put on salary by younger doctors may be an indicator of the success of salary supplements. In order to retain doctors at district levels for longer, consideration should be given to the introduction of general practice/family medicine as a specialty. Returning specialists should be encouraged to engage with younger colleagues as role models and mentors.
doi:10.1186/1472-6920-12-87
PMCID: PMC3480922  PMID: 22978475
Doctors; Medical students; Postgraduate education; Specialisation; Malawi; Rural health; Brain drain; Emigration
2.  Future career plans of Malawian medical students: a cross-sectional survey 
Background
Malawi has one of the lowest physician densities in the world, at 1.1 doctors per 100,000 population. Undergraduate training of doctors at the national medical school has increased considerably in recent years with donor support. However, qualified doctors continue to leave the public sector in order to work or train abroad. We explored the postgraduate plans of current medical students, and the extent to which this is influenced by their background.
Methods
A self-administered questionnaire was developed after discussion with students and senior staff. This included questions on background characteristics, education before medical school, and future career plans. This was distributed to all medical and premedical students on campus over 1 week and collected by an independent researcher. One reminder visit was made to each class. Chi-squared tests were performed to investigate the relationship of student characteristics with future career plans.
Results
One hundred and forty-nine students completed the questionnaire out of a student body of 312, a response rate of 48%. When questioned on their plans for after graduation, 49.0% of students plan to stay in Malawi. However, 38.9% plan to leave Malawi immediately. Medical students who completed a ‘premedical’ foundation year at the medical school were significantly more likely to have immediate plans to stay in Malawi compared to those who completed A-levels, an advanced school-leaving qualification (P = 0.037). Current premedical students were slightly more likely to have immediate plans to work or train in Malawi compared to medical students (P = 0.049). However, a trend test across all the years was not significant. When asked about future plans, nearly half of students intend to work or train outside Malawi.
Conclusions
The majority of respondents plan to leave Malawi in the future. The effectiveness of the substantial upscaling of medical education in Malawi may be diminished unless more medical students plan to work in Malawi after graduation.
doi:10.1186/1478-4491-10-29
PMCID: PMC3465242  PMID: 22971119
Human resources for health; Physicians; Medical education; Migration; Malawi

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