In the decades following the Second World War, many countries of the Global North experienced two cardinal events in public policy: the construction of state-run health insurance systems and, secondly, the transformation of immigration regulations in order to prioritize highly-skilled professionals. These two initiatives triggered a substantial migration of health care practitioners from poorer to wealthier jurisdictions. By the end of the 1970s, industrialized countries were dependent upon the annual arrival of foreign-trained doctors and nurses, eliciting claims that this situation represented a massive, generational ‘aid in reverse’. This talk explores this transnational event from the perspective of the history of migration and the history of medicine. It also reflects on the legacy of what is popularly called the ‘medical brain drain’.
David Wright is Professor of History; Canada Research Chair in the History of Health Policy at McGill University, Montréal, Canada