Mark Lawrence Santiago

Current affiliation:
Post-Doctoral Fellow (2014), Brocher Foundation, Geneva, Switzerland

Mark aims to contribute to improved policies towards an ethical and sustainable recruitment of Filipino health workers in Canada.

Spaces of Expertise and Geographies of Ethics: Health Worker Recruitment and Migration from the Philippines to Canada

Through his professional and academic work, Lawrence aims to harness the roles played by developing countries and vulnerable migrant populations in the making of global health and international migration policies.

Lawrence’s 3-year multi-sited fieldwork for his doctoral thesis brought him from the far coldest cities of the Canadian Prairies, to the hot megalopolis of Manila and inside opaque government and international organization bureaucracies in Vancouver, Ottawa and Geneva. Through the discipline of human geography and using global ethnographic methodology, his thesis narrates stories about the lives of people, policies and institutions that define the issue of international health worker recruitment and migration and responds to a basic ethical question: how do we justly distribute health human resources across state borders through ethically sound policies?

To make space for voices from Asia and the developing world on scholarly and policy debates in global migration studies, he initiated and founded Asia Pacific Worlds in Motion, a series of global interdisciplinary graduate conferences on Asian Migrations held at Green and St. John’s College, University of British Columbia in 2008, at National University of Singapore in 2009, at UBC in 2010, at NUS in 2012 and most recently at UBC in 2013. He began this conference to encourage mentorship among graduate students and senior scholars in the field of Asia Pacific migration studies. It resulted in promoting Asia and more specifically, developing source countries (the Philippines, India and China) as a source of academic theorization and best practices in the field of global migration studies.

He also conceptualized and co-managed a one-day academic-policy workshop “Health Worker Migration to Canada: Histories, Geographies and Ethics” that brought together graduate students, faculty, and policymakers from BC and beyond to discuss the issue of health worker migration affecting Canada and the world. He had presented his work in numerous academic settings, various high-level policy conferences (as the first graduate student plenary speaker in the history of the Metropolis conference, for example) and created smaller public forums accessible to migrant health personnel themselves (such as the Philosopher’s Cafe series created with Simon Fraser University).

Outside his formal academic work, he concurrently serves as a knowledge translation and policy advisor on health human resources for the government of British Columbia’s Health Match British Columbia and the British Columbia Medical Association, where he is currently leading the creation of province-wide guidelines on the application of the WHO Global Code of Practice on the International Recruitment of Health Personnel so that recruiters and health employers in BC would not negatively affect under-resourced countries and under-served communities within BC, Canada and in major sending countries.


Having grown up in the Philippines with a father who labored in the deserts of the Middle East as an overseas contract worker, Lawrence considers himself a child and a student of global migration. His research addresses an urgent social and economic phenomenon in the Philippines today – the large scale migration of its health care work force seeking better employment opportunities in more developed economies such as Canada.

As this research will study the tremendous social implications of such migrations for the Philippines, it likewise promises to review the other side of the migration, in Canada. On the Canadian side, issues include the promotion and preservation of Canadian values – global development, human rights and justice for its Filipino nurse migrants and their families – as well as equity for Canadian society and its citizens.  In the end, he is hoping that his research can contribute to the formulation of improved education, health, labor and migration policies both in Canada and in the Philippines, and can incite the two countries to become global models for the ethical and sustainable recruitment of health workers.

A visually disabled and first generation university graduate from his family, Lawrence previously studied Philosophy at the National University of Singapore, where he received a Research Scholarship and at the Ateneo de Manila University, where he graduated as Class Valedictorian.

On December 2013, he will be defending his PhD thesis, Spaces of Expertise and Geographies of Ethics: Health Worker Recruitment and Migration from the Philippines to Canada. Apart from the Trudeau Foundation Doctoral Scholarship, Lawrence’s work was supported by a Cordula and Gunter Paetzold Fellowship, a UBC Graduate Entrance Scholarship and Four Year Doctoral Scholarship,  a Mathematics of Information Technology and Complex Systems (MITACS) and Metropolis BC Centre of Excellence for Research on Immigration and Diversity Research Fellowship among others. He is a co-Investigator of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research funded project, “Source" Country Perspectives on the Migration of Highly Trained Health Personnel: Causes, Consequences and Responses.”

From January 2014, he will continue this work as he pursues a trans-continental post-doctoral fellowship at the Department of Geography and the Department of Global Health at the School of Medicine and School of Public Health, University of Washington, Seattle and the Institute of Biomedical Ethics at the Faculty of Medicine, University of Geneva while based as a Resident Fellow at the Brocher Foundation in Geneva, Switzerland to begin the research process for a post-doctoral research project.

For his post-doc, Lawrence will analyze the global health equity impacts of international instruments such as the World Health Organization’s Global Code of Practice on the International Recruitment of Health Personnel in two of the world’s largest health worker migrant sending developing countries: India and the Philippines. While in Geneva, he will publish three articles based on his doctoral work and outline his first book project, Spaces of Expertise: Globalizing Health, Governing Migration – a historical, ethno-geographical and post-colonial critique of the institutions, ethics and epistemologies that shape contemporary global health and global migration policies.