Challenges facing medical schools
LAU’s School of Medicine hosts 10 regional medical school deans and U.S. experts to discuss challenges and opportunities related to program development in the Middle East.
Dr. George Thibault, president of the Josiah Macy, Jr. Foundation and member of LAU's Board of Trustees, gave the keynote address during the half-day meeting organized by LAU's School of Medicine on March 17.
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A group of 10 deans from medical schools across Lebanon and the region discussed the challenges facing the development of medical programs in the region with a hope of reaching a plan to move forward, at LAU Byblos on March 17.
Organized by LAU’s Gilbert and Rose-Marie Chagoury School of Medicine, the half-day meeting, titled “New Medical Schools in Lebanon and the Middle East: Challenges and Opportunities,” was opened by Dr. Kamal Badr, the school’s founding dean, who reflected on his decision and motivations to join LAU in building the new school.
“How do we define a good physician considering what has happened to medicine over the past 30 years since I joined medical school,” Badr asked the audience. He reflected that topics of conversation among physicians have shifted from medical procedures — during his early career — to dealing with health care providers and other for-profit groups that have blurred the objectives of doctors.
“This is a result of the invasion of the profession of medicine by several profit-making entities,” he said.
The timing of the event corresponds with a current global demand for health care that has led to a wave of new medical schools across the world. Lebanon alone has seen three new medical schools established in the past decade.
The deans recognized that the growing demand for health care also presents an opportunity to reshape the future of medicine by training doctors with a special emphasis on core issues and values.
“We chose to focus our mission on the things that make a physician driven more by his or her compassion and merciful approach to the patient,” Badr explained, “rather than just [being] involved in a business transaction between the patient and the insurance company.”
A host of other challenges facing medical schools during this period of expansion were neatly laid out during a series of presentations, such as accreditation and recognition, funding, language of instruction vs. language of practice, facilities, and quality of faculty.
The keynote address was delivered by Dr. George Thibault, president of the Josiah Macy, Jr. Foundation — a leading academic and grant-awarding foundation in the United States — and a member of LAU’s Board of Trustees. He began his presentation by examining medical schools in the United States through a historical timeline, beginning over a century ago when they were met with practically no standards or oversight, to the challenges that face the newest ones opening up today.
“I think the list of challenges [in the United States], is similar to the ones of new schools being developed in the Middle East and elsewhere,” Thibault said.
Dr. Javaid Sheikh, dean of the Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar, gave a presentation detailing the steps taken to build the school since opening its doors to students in 2002.
“Unlike Lebanon which has over 150 years of very distinguished history of higher education including medical education, in Qatar, until very recently, there was only Qatar University,” Sheikh said in order to highlight a critical difference concerning precedence between the two countries in the establishment of medical programs.
The final presentation was given by Dr. Robert Crone, chairman of the governing board of the U.S. Medical Licensing Examination, who spoke on the globalization of health care over the past 15 years.
Crone, who is also a member of the Board of Directors of the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates in the United States, and managing director of the Global Healthcare Practice at Huron Consulting Group, revealed that the growing demand for health care is largely a result of emerging economies and population growth in much of the developing world such as China, India, the Middle East, Russia, and Latin America.
People in developing countries “are demanding high-quality health care closer to home — they don’t want to leave their own community to get world-class health care,” Crone said. “This has really driven the growth of quality health care infrastructure in many places in the world [including] here in the [Middle East] region.”
During a panel discussion comprised of the group of 10 deans following the presentations, Dr. Kamal Kallab, dean of the Faculty of Medicine at Université Saint-Esprit de Kaslik, a traditionally French-medium university, identified the language of instruction as the most serious obstacle for his students who are graduating in a world that increasingly demands English.
“What we choose to do when accepting students is give them a test to make sure they are at the highest level in English and in French,” explained Kallab, noting that the school now requires students to take courses in both languages.
Dr. Camille Nassar, dean of the Faculty of Medicine at Balamand University, also highlighted the problem of emigration. He said, “We are not able to keep our students here, and getting them back is another problem.”
“This isn’t the first time we get together and discuss the challenges that we are facing as medical schools in Lebanon, yet unfortunately,” Nassar continued, “I think most of the recommendations that were passed in the past did not materialize. I hope we can do something about it in the future.”
Multidisciplinary approach to health care education
Prior to this event, Dr. Thibault and a team from Harvard Medical International — which is in close collaboration with LAU’s School of Medicine — met with the deans of LAU’s schools of Nursing, Pharmacy and Medicine, along with top-level officers and faculty in each school, to discuss best practices and approaches to multidisciplinary teaching methods and optimization of the use of resources at LAU.
The meeting concluded with the formation of a task force including members from the three schools that will work together on identifying courses that can be common to the three schools.
This will further enhance LAU’s role as the only university in Lebanon that hosts three heath care-related schools under the same roof and encourages multidisciplinary techniques, teamwork, and a holistic approach to health care education and practice.
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