His parents, brother and even his wife think he’s foolish for not practicing medicine at a private clinic, where he could be making six to seven times more money. But Malede Birara has no plans to leave his job as a physician in the OB-GYN department at St. Paul’s Hospital Millennium Medical College in Addis Ababa.
He’s staying because he wants to continue doing research. “There are few private hospitals that give you the opportunity to grow in your academic area, “ he said.
St. Paul’s provides him housing. He owns a car. And he can easily pay all his bills.
Still, Birara’s choice to remain in Ethiopia is unusual among his peers. Brain drain has been a serious problem in the region. Many doctors have left the countries to work in major U.S. cities, like Atlanta and Washington, D.C.
Birara doesn’t believe money was the primary factor motivating doctors to leave Ethiopia. He thinks the most important thing for doctors is having a satisfying work environment – a place with good resources, equipment, training and opportunities to develop.
Ethiopia’s government is beginning to understand that now. “I see a bright future, “ Birara said.
During the past 20 years or so, the government’s top priority was the prevention of diseases such as malaria, tuberculosis and HIV, he said. Most resources went to lower-level medical staff.
But in the past two years, the priorities have shifted to developing hospitals and expanding specialty training, Birara said.
“In our OB-GYN department two years ago, we had three people,” he said. “Now we have nine.”
It’s an exciting and hopeful time for Birara. “We expect more and more.”