Young Greek doctors migrate for further studies and work

By Lina Giannarou - Kathimerini

The Greek state spends 30,000 euros a year or 180,000 euros over six years to educate every medical student. So why does the state show them the door once they graduate? More and more young Greek doctors emigrate when they graduate, turning their backs on the uncertainty of employment prospects in their field in Greece. And the best of them don't come back. Who are they? There is no exact record of the brain drain. «If they don't know how many students graduate within the time limit, how can they know how many go abroad?» one student told Kathimerini. But a recent survey by the Association of Young Doctors and Scientists, which is soon to be published in the journal Health Policy, shows that 70.3 percent of Greek medical graduates consider traveling to another country to study a specialization in order to work abroad. The reason, for 51.4 percent of respondents, was higher educational standards in other countries and, for 40.9 percent, the fact that they would have to wait up to eight years in Greece to start their specialization. Not surprisingly, few are in any position to consider starting work at 40 years old. Certainly not Pavlos Msauel, 24, a graduate in medicine and the secretary general of the Young Doctors' Society. «I'll go to the US, Sweden or England,» he said. «I want to study endocrinology but, according to the Greek system, I would first have to specialize as a general practitioner. That means I have to get onto two waiting lists. If all goes well, I'll get into endocrinology in 2018 when I'm 36, and I'll graduate at 41. I consider it undignified, to say the least, to start working at that age when I sweated blood to get into medicine and graduated with top marks after six years of hard work. But the system puts me on the scrap heap.» As he pointed out, many of his fellow graduates in medicine see it the same way. «They don't want to leave but they don't have a choice. You see lots of young doctors working at health institutes or even five-a-side soccer clubs while waiting to get into a hospital for their specialization. They didn't study all those years to do that kind of work.» The survey reveals that the most popular destinations abroad for Greek medical graduates are Britain (33.2 percent) and the USA (23.4 percent). But Germany also accepts many young Greek doctors every year, as Kyriakos Martakos, a medical student at Thessaloniki University and vice-president of the Hellenic Medical Students International Committee (HELMSIC), told Kathimerini. HELMSIC is a non-profit organization that informs students about issues such as public health and medical education, and organizes exchanges among Greek and foreign students. Every year, Martakos explained, around 230 Greek medical students to travel to various countries through the exchange program and familiarize themselves with other health systems. «It's a way of seeing which system suits them best so that when they graduate, they can do their specialization there,» he said. «Many go abroad; our professors advise us to go. In our final year, they tell us to get into the Erasmus program so that clinics abroad will accept us more readily later on. Things are difficult here; there are a lots of doctors and few posts.»