The European Brain Drain: hard facts and harder truths

Juncker 2018 European Commission

Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the EC. © European Union , 2018 / Source: EC – Audiovisual Service / Photo: Etienne Ansotte.

This article was exclusively written for the Sting by Mr Damir Kurtagić, a 24 years old medical student in his final year at the University of Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. He is affiliated to the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA). However, the opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writer and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.

Believe me, there is nothing in that simple description that is wrong. I should know, I come from an eastern European country and do not plan to stay there.

As a child you wake up every day not knowing the decisions your future holds for you. You go into primary school, high school and all throughout a simple idea follows you: I want to be a doctor and help people. So, you study really hard to get into a medical school. And then You are there, You are in it with face buried in numerous textbooks, atlases, facing deadlines you never thought you could make.

Nervous breakdowns, sleepless nights or dreaming and repeating everything you read, seeing all those anatomical structures on the pattern of your bathroom tiles etc. is just something that becomes your every day. So, what do you do? You become stronger, more determined and still You are happy with your decisions, at least until reality faces you in a duel.

As part of your everyday clinical work, you spend countless hours at your University hospital. And at first being mesmerized by all those specialties, procedures, different techniques of work, you are kind of blind to the problems that exist. But as the years pass by you start noticing things. With entering the hospital, the smile on the face of almost every doctor disappears.

Through the day the motivation declines. You are forced to prescribe the medications you never would if you had any other choice, you are ordering patients for procedures that will take place months from now, or they are simply not available here in the biggest Healthcare institution in this country. And if those hints are not enough, then your professors advising you to go to Europe in search for the better future should be a big one.

It’s not easy to realize that in your country knowledge, science and invention are not supported, in fact you are shown that those are not allowed to live here. Furthermore, choosing a specialty you want, in my case cardiac surgery, without connections is basically impossible.

So, You come to a point in life, like me, when you are in your final months, days, of University education, soon to be MD, and what’s the next step? Are you staying or going into unknown?

That’s not a decision that comes by so easily, you are preparing for completely new life, another place, another society. You are waking up one morning with the idea of leaving, another day you are staying. I can’t tell you what the right choice is, probably because not everyone is the same.

We all have a desire to be GREAT, so we go to a place where we can accomplish that. Remember- The World is big, and we are the citizens of it. Follow your heart and go where you will have a life you are happy with, I know I will.

About the author

My name is Damir Kurtagić. I am 24 years old, and this is my final year as a medical student at the University of Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina.  During my journey in medical school I was given a chance to participate in numerous projects, also to develop and coordinate new ones. Currently I am a member of SCORA team, as NORA coordinator, in Bosnian and Herzegovinian Medical Students’ Association (affiliated with IFMSA) and a member of Committee for Education and Committee for humanitarian work in Students’ Association of the Faculty of Medicine. My field of interest is cardiothoracic surgery.

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