Where do Caribbean medical schools stand in regards to global academic standards? The buzz in medical education is all about the push for a standardized, global accreditation system for the world's medical schools by 2023. The Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG) in cooperation with the World Federation for Medical Education (WFME) will seek to establish new or utilize existing regional accrediting bodies to realize their goal. The purpose and intent of this ambitious task is logical and laudible as it ultimately seeks to ensure the provision of quality health care, initially by setting a global standard for the training of physicians. "There is no question it is a step in the right direction to raise the standard of medical education worldwide in the interest of protecting the public interest," said Glen Stream MD (President of the American Academy of Family Physicians - AAFP).
Is a global consensus on what constitutes quality medical education possible? Can a global understanding of what makes a good doctor be determined? That remains to be seen and the challenges are numerous. During the next decade the focus will have to move away from the qualifications of the individual, to rather the certification of the medical school that graduated that physician. The WFME and the ECFMG will set forth the standard, yet with more than 2,500 medical schools in the world, national or regional accreditation bodies will be needed to carry out the process. This will leave the WFME and the ECFMG the task of evaluating the accrediting bodies themselves.
As for Caribbean medical schools, the 9 year old accrediting body CAAM-HP (Caribbean Accreditation Authority for Education in Medicine and Other Health Professions) has a jump start as it was a part of the now completed pilot project and was already granted international recognition status by the WFME in May of this year. However, it will still take some time to handle the task of evaluating each of the many Caribbean medical schools, with UMHS - St. Kitts being a key one.
The question also remains as to how much variation can be tolerated. Global diversity of curriculum, educational methods; culture and social priorities; along with health care systems and problems; all pose challenges to the establishment of one fair and equitable system.
Yet perhaps a more pressing issue that may eclipse this one is the lack of growth in funding for graduate medical education itself, both in the United States and many other countries. "We are going to have a shortage of residency positions at the same time when physician shortages are predicted to develop around the country," says Dr. Cassimatis (ECFMG President and CEO), "I think a lot of that will happen long before 2023 rolls around."
For more on the topic read the Amednews article by Carolyne Krupa called "Setting a global standard for medical education."
Ann Celestine, M.L.S., B.A., A.H.I.P. is Director of Library & Educational Applications, Professor of Library Research. Professor Celestine oversees all daily library and exam center operations at the Anne Ross Library at UMHS.