THE sword of World Federation for Medical Education (WFME) is hanging over the head of all future doctors, but hardly 10 per cent doctors/medical students are aware of it. The medical fraternity, which knows about the looming threat, is busy discussing petty matters and non-issues.
The WFME announced about six years ago that in view of the rapidly falling standard of medical education in the developing world and the pathetic performance of their medical graduates in entry examinations, no one from 2023 onwards would be allowed to sit the United States Medical Licensing Examination, Professional and Linguistic Assessments Board (PLAB) and other entry examinations for higher education, training and post-graduation in the United States and Europe.
The WFME gave enough time to the authorities concerned and published detailed guidelines about how to fulfil the requirements for making their medical graduates eligible for overseas entry tests.
The governing body at that time, the Pakistan Medical and Dental Council (PMDC), which was supposed to handle the emerging situation, was too busy encouraging mushroom growth of new medical colleges, both in public and private sectors, which actually further deteriorated the quality of medical education, which was and is the main concern of WFME.
Out of over 150 medical colleges in Pakistan, most do not produce quality doctors good enough to pass foreign entry examination or the local exit examination called the National Licensing Examination (NLE).
NLE was introduced two years ago by the Pakistan Medical Commission (PMC), which had replaced PMDC after the 2018 general elections. The PMC also started medical and dental college admission test (MDCAT) to improve intake quality of medical students in line with the WFME guidelines.
Recently, the original requirement of 65pc pass marks has been quashed to 55pc because last year many seats in medical colleges remained vacant. Quality is being sacrificed for quantity. With changing politics in Pakistan, the PMC is now being rolled back to bring in the PMDC once again. Now what should we do to secure the future of our doctors?
We must give up politics for the sake of it. There is no room for diplomacy in medicine or in any other professional field. We have to do the hard miles if we want to improve the quality and competence of our professionals.
All the guidelines are available online and they are tough. Really tough. Only a few medical colleges are preparing for WFME accreditation, but the majority of medical colleges has no idea about the seriousness of the matter. All the measures initiated for the induction of meritorious students in medical colleges are going down the drain.
The need of the hour — and a rather one — is to unite and work hard on a war footing to secure the dignity and pride of Pakistani doctors at the international level.
Prof Serajuddaula Syed
Published in Dawn, September 14th, 2022