Original Research

Where are they working? A case study of twenty Cuban-trained South African doctors

Munirah Motala, Jacqueline van Wyk
African Journal of Primary Health Care & Family Medicine | Vol 11, No 1 | a1977 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/phcfm.v11i1.1977 | © 2019 Munirah Motala, Jacqueline van Wyk | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 17 October 2018 | Published: 21 August 2019

About the author(s)

Munirah Motala, School of Medicine, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa
Jacqueline van Wyk, School of Medicine, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa


Background: The year 2017 marked the 21st anniversary of the South African Cuban Medical Collaboration (SACMC) programme that offers disadvantaged South African (SA) students an opportunity for medical training in Cuba. Graduates are expected to return to practice at a primary care level in rural communities; however, little is known about the professional trajectories and career choices of graduates from the programme.

Aim: This study explored the reasons why students enrolled in the programme, their professional and career choices as graduates and their career intentions.

Setting: The study setting was the whole of SA although participants were primarily drawn from KwaZulu-Natal.

Methods: An exploratory, qualitative case study used a purposive sampling strategy to gather data through semi-structured interviews from participants.

Results: Graduates (N = 20) of the SACMC programme were all practicing in local SA settings. Participants preferred the SACMC programme as it offered them a full scholarship for medical training. Nineteen doctors had fulfilled their obligation to work in rural areas. Thirteen doctors are engaged in primary healthcare practice, either as private practice generalists or as public service medical officers. Three doctors had completed specialty training: one doctor was training towards specialisation, one doctor was employed at national government and two doctors were employed as medical managers. At the time of the study, 11 doctors were practicing in rural locations and 19 had indicated a long-term intention to work and live within South Africa.

Conclusion: The participants of this study who graduated from the SACMC programme are fulfilling their obligations in rural communities. They all intend to contribute to the SA medical workforce in the long-term.


doctor shortages; primary health care; Cuban-trained; South African; medical programme.


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