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September 2, 2003

Program Evaluation Critical to Pakistani Doctoral Retainment

Pakistan devotes considerable financial resources to educate and train skilled scientists and health care workers, but these trained professionals continue to leave for developed countries rather than remain in Pakistan, according to faculty at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. 

The researchers say this attrition further decreases the number of future health professionals being trained by current scientists, which directly affects the amount of research being done in Pakistan and benefiting its citizens. The study found that highly trained researchers who return to Pakistan face many problems including underutilization of their expertise and lack of funding and laboratory space. The study, “Capacity development for health research in Pakistan: the effects of doctoral training,” is the first attempt to assess the impact of the health research development programs in Pakistan and is published in the September 2003 issue of Health Policy and Planning.  

A technical consultant for the study, Adnan Hyder, MD, MPH, PhD, assistant professor and the Leon Robertson Faculty Development Chair in the School’s Department of International Health, said, “Research capacity development is a broad concept covering the planning, development, implementation, evaluation, and sustainability of a complex phenomenon. Non-financial disincentives are one of the major challenges in attracting and retaining trained health care workers in countries like Pakistan.”

The study’s authors surveyed 54 Pakistani researchers who received doctoral training outside the country on funded programs. They found that the study participants, who were overwhelmingly male (50 men and 4 women), wrote, on average, only 15 articles and trained 9 students after returning to Pakistan. The respondents also reported a lack of research grants to sustain research efforts. Only two percent of the study respondents received more than two grants post-training to continue their research. A lack of societal respect and networking opportunities also hinder the creation of a research culture in Pakistan. In addition, the scientists told the study authors that self-direction in their work and better facilities might stimulate their research and benefit Pakistan. 

Dr. Hyder said, “This type of study is required for critical decision making for manpower development of a country. New and innovative models may be needed and should provide an incentive for evaluating questions about the best use of limited scientific funds not only in Pakistan but in other developing countries as well.”

The study was completed at the Pakistan Medical Research Council, where Dr. Hyder is a special advisor and served as a technical consultant for this project.

Dr. Tasleem Akhter and Abdul Qayyum, with the Pakistan Medical Research Council in Islamabad, Pakistan, completed the research and co-authored the article.

Public Affairs Media Contacts for the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health: Kenna Brigham or Tim Parsons at 410-955-6878 or paffairs@jhsph.edu. Photographs of Adnan Hyder are available upon request.