Lebanese American University


LAU to host an international conference on medical education

Co-chair of the conference’s scientific committee, Dr. Ara Tekian tells us more about the developments and challenges of medical education in Lebanon and worldwide.

An international authority in medical education, Dr. Ara Tekian is associate professor of medical education and associate dean for international affairs at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine. He is the co-chair of the scientific committee of the International Conference in Medical Education that is organized by the LAU Gilbert and Rose-Marie Chagoury School of Medicine on November 21.


MarCom: What can you tell us about the development of medical education worldwide?

Dr. Ara Tekian: I am coming from the Department of Medical Education at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine where the first center of medical education was established in 1959. After that, efforts were spent on faculty development, training of trainers, working on various ways to improve the curriculum to make it more relevant to the practice of medicine, introducing new methods of assessing the students’ and residents’ performance.

As the years progressed, accrediting bodies and governing associations started to get involved and pushed for more innovative approaches – but people to implement these approaches were needed. So, in the 60s the University of Illinois was the first to create a body of knowledge and to offer a master’s degree in medical education. Until 1997 there were only seven centers in the world offering a similar degree that basically prepares leaders and scholars in medical education who understand curriculum development, assessment, program evaluation, management, leadership and research.

From 1997-2011 the seven programs became 76 worldwide and there are now over 120 master’s programs with doctoral programs evolving in this field. An increasing number of residency program directors, associate deans and deans need this strong foundation in medical education and are registering.


MarCom: What about medical education in the Middle East?

Dr. Ara Tekian: While the region has only a few institutions offering a master’s in medical education –  in Egypt, the UAE and Saudi Arabia – there is great awareness about the importance of developing this knowledge and many people have been travelling to Europe and the United States to complete their education. However, it is worth noting that more programs are starting nowadays.

As a matter of fact, two LAU students are currently pursuing their master’s in Chicago. This is a very good indicator, because every project they develop will benefit LAU’s School of Medicine.


MarCom: What are the challenges faced today to implement a professional medical education program in your opinion?

Dr. Ara Tekian: First of all, everything starts with leadership. Leaders need to appreciate and acknowledge that expertise in medical education is essential. Running a medical school is not like running a business school. If they want to graduate qualified individuals, those in leadership should get the required resources and opportunities for these individuals to implement what they learned.

Now, one of the many challenges of medical education in Lebanon is the absence of a proper medical error and patient safety reporting system. Medical practice affects the quality of patient care. The entire new assessment method introduced at undergraduate and post-graduate levels really determines the product. I want to make sure that my students are competent when they go abroad, that they can practice unsupervised and are safe doctors.


MarCom: Going back to the conference itself, what is the importance and relevance of this event for Lebanon and for LAU’s School of Medicine in particular?

Dr. Ara Tekian: Although LAU is the youngest and newest medical school amongst the seven medical schools in the country, it has taken the initiative to start the first international medical education conference in Lebanon. We call it international because the invitation has been extended to many neighboring countries.

Seminars at a smaller scale have regularly been organized at the national and regional level but it was never “this big,” taking into account the caliber of the speakers, the depth of the program that includes plenary sessions and workshops together, and the number of participants - over 200. We are hopeful that this will become an annual conference where LAU gives this professional community the opportunity to come together and network. This year, all the medical schools are participating. That is the best networking one can have: to bring the resources and to bring the professionals together, as a country moves forward.


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