Medical education growing in Kingdom

Batterjee Medical College graduates at a recent graduation ceremony.

Batterjee Medical College graduates at a recent graduation ceremony.

The provision of quality medical education by the public and private sectors is growing in the Kingdom, a leading academic told Arab News recently.

Hassan Sami Shaiba, dean of Batterjee Medical College, said the provision of this specialized training has changed rapidly in the country. The number of colleges has increased from five to 21 in a decade, with varied curricula including traditional, innovative, problem-based and community-oriented programs.

“The private sector has started investing in higher education generally and medical education in particular. Other government entities that provide advanced health services have established new medical colleges. The expansion of quantity in medical education has been associated with a drive for greater quality assurance,” he said.

Shaiba said the common features of medical education include six years of training for students after high school, and most schools also requiring students to complete a preparatory year for medicine and allied professions based on their academic performance.

Most medical schools follow a traditional curriculum, but in recent years there has been a move to include more student-centered elements and some have even adopted problem-based curricula. Efforts are also underway to define outcomes of Saudi medical graduates and to align curricula to achieve those outcomes.

The Ministry of Higher Education and National Commission for Academic Accreditation and Assessment act as monitoring agencies to ensure standards of undergraduate training is maintained. There is a heavy emphasis on summative assessment, he said.

Shaiba said students face several challenges including retaining ever-increasing volumes of information, learning how to apply these facts, and contributing to the scientific body of knowledge.

Other challenges include remaining empathetic to the needs of patients during and after training, upholding ethical principles, continuously striving for personal and professional development, working in multidisciplinary health care teams, dealing with fewer opportunities for postgraduate training abroad, and stiff competition for residency positions.

“These are complex issues with no easy solutions. Graduates today require different skill sets to survive in the workplace, which go far beyond technical knowledge. They need information, media and technology skills, life and career skills including intrapersonal and interpersonal skills, communication skills, leadership competencies and social and emotional intelligence to remain competitive and succeed in today’s world,” he said.

He said that over the past decade, tuition and associated costs of education at colleges and universities have increased incrementally by 40 percent.

“To make education affordable and within reach of the common man, strategies need to be devised that may include options such as increased allocation of resources in state budgets, subsidies, easy repayment student loans, distance education, online degrees and work opportunities for students to reduce the financial burden on parents,” he said.

Shaiba said an academic degree does not guarantee a well-rounded personality. Further development opportunities are needed in educational institutions to complement the academic curriculum, which should include sports, taking part in societies, part-time work or volunteering.

Shaiba advised students wanting to enter medicine to work hard at high school and improve their English because lack of the language remains one of the main reasons for students dropping out in the first year.
He said students who qualify must try to keep up to date with the latest medical developments by regularly attending workshops and conferences or studying for an additional degree. The BMC offers seven bachelor degrees for different medical specialties including medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, physical therapy, nursing, radiology and health administration.

The college was founded in 2005 and built to accommodate up to 5,000 students. It is considered the first private specialized medical college in Saudi Arabia.

It also includes a “Virtual Hospital” to provide students with clinical skills essential to deal with patients using the latest screening methods and treatment simulation, dental clinics equipped with the latest devices, and a research center.

 
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