Background: The international migration of physicians is a global public health problem. Lebanon is a source country with the highest emigration factor in the Middle East and North Africa and the 7th highest in the World. Given that residency training abroad is a critical step in the migration of physicians, the objective of this study was to survey students of Lebanese medical schools about their intentions to train abroad and their post training plans.
Methods: Our target population consisted of all students of Lebanese medical schools in the pre-final and final years of medical school. We developed the survey questionnaire based on the results of a qualitative study assessing the intentions and motives for students of Lebanese medical schools to train abroad. The questionnaire inquired about student's demographic and educational characteristics, intention to train abroad, the chosen country of abroad training, and post-training intention of returning to Lebanon.
Results: Of 576 eligible students, 425 participated (73.8% response rate). 406 (95.5%) respondents intended to travel abroad either for specialty training (330 (77.6%)) or subspecialty training (76 (17.9%)). Intention to train abroad was associated with being single compared with being married. The top 4 destination countries were the US (301(74.1%)), France (49 (12.1%)), the United Kingdom (31 (7.6%)) and Canada (17 (4.2%)). One hundred and two (25.1%) respondents intended to return to Lebanon directly after finishing training abroad; 259 (63.8%) intended to return to Lebanon after working abroad temporarily for a varying number or years; 43 (10.6%) intended to never return to Lebanon. The intention to stay indefinitely abroad was associated male sex and having a 2nd citizenship. It was inversely associated with being a student of one of the French affiliated medical schools and a plan to train in a surgical specialty.
Conclusion: An alarming percentage of students of Lebanese medical schools intend to migrate for post graduate training, mainly to the US. A minority intends to return directly to Lebanon after finishing training abroad.