The migration of trained medical staff has been a key issue for global health governance during the first decade of the 21st century. Attempts to regulate the migration of skilled medical personnel as part of the training needs of rich and poor countries have proceeded in parallel with more critical approaches to the problem. The migration of technologies, ideas and values in specific historical contexts and critical approaches to the discourse of development have interrogated a ‘skilled personnel supply’ approach. This symposium addresses analysis of global medical migration from different regions and disciplinary standpoints with a view to formulating future research questions. It will be of interest to researchers with an interest in empirical and theoretically informed questions around the politics of global health public health and migration.