Rural work and specialty choices of international students graduating from Australian medical schools: Implications for policy

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Almost 500 international students graduate from Australian medical schools annually, with around 70% commencing medical work in Australia. If these Foreign Graduates of Accredited Medical Schools (FGAMS) wish to access Medicare benefits, they must initially work in Distribution Priority Areas (mainly rural). This study describes and compares the geographic and specialty distribution of FGAMS. Participants were 18,093 doctors responding to Medicine in Australia: Balancing Employment and Life national annual surveys, 2012–2017. Multiple logistic regression models explored location and specialty outcomes for three training groups (FGAMS; other Australian-trained (domestic) medical graduates (DMGs); and overseas-trained doctors (OTDs)). Only 19% of FGAMS worked rurally, whereas 29% of Australia’s population lives rurally. FGAMS had similar odds of working rurally as DMGs (OR 0.93, 0.77–1.13) and about half the odds of OTDs (OR 0.48, 0.39–0.59). FGAMS were more likely than DMGs to work as general practitioners (GPs) (OR 1.27, 1.03–1.57), but less likely than OTDs (OR 0.74, 0.59–0.92). The distribution of FGAMS, particularly geographically, is sub-optimal for improving Australia’s national medical workforce goals of adequate rural and generalist distribution. Opportunities remain for policy makers to expand current policies and develop a more comprehensive set of levers to promote rural and GP distribution from this group.

Original languageEnglish
Article number5056
Number of pages10
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number24
Publication statusPublished - 11 Dec 2019


  • Access
  • Australia
  • General practice
  • Health policy
  • International students
  • Maldistribution
  • Medical workforce
  • Rural

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