Better “Brain Drain” than “Brain in the Drain”


Better “Brain Drain” than “Brain in the Drain”
There is a dire need to take remedial measures by the Government,
Legislative and Regulatory Bodies to mitigate “Brain Drain”
Prof. Muhammad Aslam M. Phil, PhD, FCPS*

Pakistan is the sixth largest country to export scientific professionals across the world. Health Professionals like medical doctors, nurses, medical technicians, pharmacists, physical therapists, dentists and allied health workers leave the country (Pakistan) for USA, UK, Canada, Australia, Gulf countries, Mid-east countries and many others in pursuits of their professional development and employment every year. There is a substantial number of highly skilled medical professionals (esp doctors) of Pakistani origin working in UK and USA. Their services, professional acumen and behaviour is much appreciated by their employers and the community at large in those countries. These medical professionals have played a role of “real ambassadors of Pakistan”. They have substantially contributed to build knowledge-based economy by sending remittances to Pakistan escalating national exchequer. They have also promoted continuing learning by making placements for observer ship, internships, sabbaticals and even residency programs in different disciplines of health sciences for Pakistani fellows. They have contributed for welfare of the society by taking an active role in voluntary organisations working for the wellness of the poor people or deprived areas. They have upgraded their families, relatives and friends financially and psychologically in innumerous ways.

Prof. Muhammad Aslam

The point of deep concern is “why did they leave Pakistan causing “brain drain”? In my personal opinion, “nobody on earth wishes to leave his homeland”. But, there are certain bitter facts or non-conducive environment which compels them to leave the country. Some of them are listed below for Pakistan.

  1. Lack of Professional Growth: The medicos don’t find specialized healthcare institutes which are optimally equipped with trustable professionals to train them for their professional development and growth. There are less than required places and that even substandard available in the country to train them to develop into Entrustable physicians.
  2. Bureaucratic Behaviour: The medicos have to face indifferent behaviour in dealing with administrative, legislative and regulatory bodies. They face unnecessary delays, humiliations and untoward behaviour for their rightful and genuine matters while dealing with Universities, Pakistan Medical Commission, HEC, Bureaucracy, Ministries and other related bodies.
  3. Lack of Credible Research Institutes: Some of them are keen to pursuit for quality research. There are negligible well equipped research centers to train them at doctoral levels with paucity of renowned scientists in medical fields.
  4. Bribery at all Steps: The healthcare professionals have to give bribe for the rightful and correct matters of life at every steps in most of the places they come across. Bribery in various forms like inducement, incentive, payola, backhander, pay-off, kickback, sweetener, carrot, hung, dropsy, plugola, sling and drop are not acceptable to these young healthcare professionals when they acquire higher education.
  5. Lack of Wages or Salary: Pakistan being a developing country can’t afford to offer doctors reasonable salary or wages. With the existing meagre salary, a doctor can’t live respectfully to fulfil the needs for his family. Most doctors indulge in medical practice in the afternoon/ evening to make an Honourable living. This pattern of life is not acceptable to some quality professionals.
  6. Lack of Quality Living and Education: Pakistan, at most of its cities/ villages, does not offer them quality living and standard education in schools for their children. If such facilities are available in Pakistan, they are only for elites since being expensive and not-affordable.
  7. Lack of Appropriate Employment: The hospitals in the country especially in Public Sector for over decades have not been established in proportion to the population explosion and burden of diseases. The quantum to acquire high education in health sciences has increased. This fact has led to the dearth of jobs for doctors making them unemployed for years adding frustrations in life.
  8. Lack of Healthcare Facilities: Some healthcare professionals leave the country to seek quality medical care facilities for them, their parents and families. The State-of-Art healthcare facilities either are less existing in the country or those are specified for effluent persons as being too costly. There is no system existing like NHS in the country.
  9. Lack of Self-respect and dignity in the Society: Periodically doctors are harassed, abused and even beaten by the patient’s attendants. The unethical media blackmails healthcare professionals, their character assassination which goes on unchecked has also had a demoralizing effect on the medical profession as a whole. The vaccinators (especially for Poliomyelitis) are shot down. The Advocates (who are custodian of law) attack the hospitals (remember the storming of Punjab Institute of cardiology at Lahore). These attitude of the society scares some doctors to slip out of the country. This humiliation and disgrace has become non-bearable for many of them.

On basis of above bitter facts, many angry young doctors opt for “brain drain” over “brain in the drain”. The “brain drain” from Pakistan to rest of the world can be mitigated if we seriously and systematically take remedial measures for each of the above mentioned shortcomings. More emphasis be laid on improvisation of the deficiencies than cursing the doctors for “brain drain”. We should make utmost efforts and measures to prevent both “brain drain” and “brain in the drain”.

*The writer is a former Vice Chancellor of UHS Lahore, Pro VC NUMS and Professor of Physiology who also served as Principal of Army Medical College. Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.