Background: The purpose of this paper is to describe and analyze the professional expectations of medical students during the 2007-2008 academic year at the public medical schools of Angola, Guinea-Bissau and Mozambique, and to identify their social and geographical origins, their professional expectations and difficulties relating to their education and professional future.
Methods: Data were collected through a standardised questionnaire applied to all medical students registered during the 2007-2008 academic year.
Results: Students decide to study medicine at an early age. Relatives and friends seem to have an especially important influence in encouraging, reinforcing and promoting the desire to be a doctor.The degree of feminization of the student population differs among the different countries.Although most medical students are from outside the capital cities, expectations of getting into medical school are already associated with migration from the periphery to the capital city, even before entering medical education.Academic performance is poor. This seems to be related to difficulties in accessing materials, finances and insufficient high school preparation.Medical students recognize the public sector demand but their expectations are to combine public sector practice with private work, in order to improve their earnings. Salary expectations of students vary between the three countries.Approximately 75% want to train as hospital specialists and to follow a hospital-based career. A significant proportion is unsure about their future area of specialization, which for many students is equated with migration to study abroad.
Conclusions: Medical education is an important national investment, but the returns obtained are not as efficient as expected. Investments in high-school preparation, tutoring, and infrastructure are likely to have a significant impact on the success rate of medical schools. Special attention should be given to the socialization of students and the role model status of their teachers.In countries with scarce medical resources, the hospital orientation of students' expectations is understandable, although it should be associated with the development of skills to coordinate hospital work with the network of peripheral facilities. Developing a local postgraduate training capacity for doctors might be an important strategy to help retain medical doctors in the home country.