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Worker migration

Sir, there has been much recent interest in the migration of health workers from developing countries1,2 and while the term 'health worker' has been used, most studies have focused on doctors and nurses.3,4 Some research has explored career aspirations of dental students from Nigeria,5 but information on migration and career patterns of dentists from developing countries is sparse.

We earlier examined country of residence for three classes from a Nigerian medical school and found 40% living abroad.3 As Nigerian dentists follow similar training and career pathways to doctors, we decided to locate members of three graduating classes of the School of Dental Sciences, University of Lagos, Nigeria's oldest and largest dental school, to compare the migration patterns to the doctors'.

We obtained class lists of qualified dentists from 2000, 2002 and 2003, and located class members using formal and informal networks. There were no graduates in 2001 due to university closures. We sent group emails, conducted telephone interviews and used snowballing methods to locate the graduates.

Over the period there were 91 graduates and we located them all. There were 53 females and 38 males. Sixty-eight percent of the cohort lives in Nigeria, while 29 (31.9%) live abroad. The main receiving countries were the UK and the US.

In this study examining the location of Nigerian dentists after graduation, we found nearly 70% of the dentists were resident in Nigeria five years after graduation. This contrasts with a similar study of doctors, which found 50% of medical doctors from recent graduating classes resident in Nigeria.3 However, as with doctors, the UK and USA received the majority of migrating dentists (Fig. 1). There were variations within classes with more graduates from the 2003 class resident in the UK and more of the 2000 class resident in the US. Over time, there appears to be an increase in migration, but with fewer migrants to the United States and more migrants to the United Kingdom. This may reflect the US requirement for graduates of foreign dental schools to go through an expensive requalifying programme. We believe that these figures are representative of Nigerian dental schools.

Figure 1

The number of dental graduates in each country

This study suggests differences in the migration patterns of dentists and doctors from Nigeria. Initiatives to address the challenge of human resources for health need to take these into account and explore the underlying reasons to be effective.


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Azeez, B., Anya, I., Akeredolu, P. et al. Worker migration. Br Dent J 204, 477–478 (2008).

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