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Hum Resour Health. 2016 Jun 30;14(Suppl 1):29. doi: 10.1186/s12960-016-0126-7.

The surgical workforce shortage and successes in retaining surgical trainees in Ethiopia: a professional survey.

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Department of Surgery, School of Medicine, College of Health Sciences, Addis Ababa University, PO Box 5729, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Center for Global Surgical Studies, Department of Surgery, University of California San Francisco, San Francisco, CA, USA.
Department of Emergency Medicine, Oregon Health & Science University, Portland, OR, USA.



Medical workforce shortages represent a major challenge in low- and middle-income countries, including those in Africa. Despite this, there is a dearth of information regarding the location and practice of African surgeons following completion of their training. In response to the call by the WHO Global Code of Practice on the International Recruitment of Health Personnel for a sound evidence base regarding patterns of practice and migration of the health workforce, this study describes the current place of residence, practice and setting of Ethiopian surgical residency graduates since commencement of their surgical training in Ethiopia or in Cuba.


This study presents data from a survey of all Ethiopian surgical residency training graduates since the programme's inception in 1985.


A total of 348 Ethiopians had undergone surgical training in Ethiopia or Cuba since 1985; data for 327 (94.0 %) of these surgeons were collected and included in the study. The findings indicated that 75.8 % of graduates continued to practice in Ethiopia, with 80.9 % of these practicing in the public sector. Additionally, recent graduates were more likely to remain in Ethiopia and work within the public sector. The average total number of surgeons per million inhabitants in Ethiopia was approximately three and 48.0 % of Ethiopian surgeons practiced in Addis Ababa.


Ethiopian surgeons are increasingly likely to remain in Ethiopia and to practice in the public sector. Nevertheless, Ethiopia continues to suffer from a drastic surgical workforce shortage that must be addressed through increased training capacity and strategies to combat emigration and attrition.


Africa; Developing countries; Ethiopia; Surgical training; Surgical workforce

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