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Open Access Publications from the University of California

International Physician Migration: A Comparative Study of Healthcare in the US, UK, & India


Physician migration patterns are a phenomenon that affects the healthcare system within developing countries, but there is no strong evidence to show why doctors migrate to the West after getting an education from elite Indian medical institutions. This study aims to explain why physicians from India choose to leave given the different push and pull factors. Prior research shows that better opportunities for higher education, socioeconomic status, upward mobility, and equitable healthcare systems contribute to why physicians are attracted to the US and the UK. This leads to the next main question: which country do doctors prefer after moving away from India, the US or the UK? With further investigation through interviews, it becomes evident that there is no actual preference for one country. Each country has unique assets within the types of healthcare and lifestyles offered. Physicians note that social networks, support systems, and recruitment are all reasons for moving to the West. Female and lower caste/class doctors with adequate resources who left India discuss that they were able to feel more valued for their merit outside of the country. Some upper caste/class physicians were privileged enough to have more autonomy when deciding where to go; for them, the West was just another option. Upper-caste narratives also shed light on the politics they fled from, such as the medical education quota system for undergraduate and postgraduate institutions. To summarize: physicians didn’t worry too much about the destination. Rather, they just wanted to leave India.

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