The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates severe medical workforce shortages in 57 countries with the “very unlikely” projection that these countries will achieve their health-related Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).1 Although many components unite to achieve the MDGs, sound investments in health systems are gaining an identity on the global health policy table. Accordingly, the Obama administration continues to restructure funding architecture and rebalance global priorities to steer US global health policy away from an emergency relief and vertical disease-specific approach toward horizontal broad-based targets such as primary care, prevention, maternal-infant care, essential surgical services, and supportive infrastructure. This shift represents an opportunity to create sustainable models to improve workforce deficiencies and health systems worldwide. While the workforce shortage is multifaceted—with weak economic, political, and educational roots—systems improvement in capacity investment, task shifting, retention incentives, and especially medical education warrant further exploration.
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