Developing Medical Education Units: Novel and Prolific Educational Intervention

The practice of medicine appears as antique as the human race itself. Teacher-pupil apprentice model was followed for teaching of medicine in the very beginning. Around the 10th century the first modern teaching hospital was established in Baghdad, Iraq. Latter on in 1910 there was an improvement over the old system of unstructured apprenticeship when Abraham Flexner recommended teaching for 1-2 years of basic sciences and for 2-3 years of clinical subjects. By the end of 20th century Flexnerian model was adopted all over the world and it ruled the medical schools for about a century. The Flexnerian model was criticized for its artificial separation between basic and clinical sciences and was faded away by new concept of integration across the disciplines.

In 1992 Johnson Wood made one of his important recommendation to create a central coordinating body within the medical schools to execute the various amendments in medical education and also to plan, implement, monitor, evaluate, review the curriculum and to reward teaching excellence.

Founding of Medical Education Units (MEUs) or Departments in medical colleges can be acknowledged as the pinnacle of advances in medical education in the modern epoch. Keeping up the standards of medical education is not a trivial mission. Medical schools that consider it seriously have established such units across the globe.

MEUs are launched in response to increased public hopes regarding healthcare, trends of society for increased accountability, educational developments, amplified concerns about what to teach and how to teach.

Suppleness is the key to recruitment for a department of medical education. In order to provide a multi-professional and multi-dynamic team with a range of expertise, various contractual arrangements are required. Depending on the needs of individual institution the precise structure of the department will vary. The director provides academic leadership for the department and in addition to other responsibilities also helps promotion of staff collaboration, career fostering and creating local, regional and international links.

External funding agencies, government or university sources may provide financial support for MEUs but there are examples that these departments are financially self-supporting also.

MEUs play a major role in development of faculty by providing training of staff in medical pedagogy, bedside teaching, student assessment and program evaluation. MEUs also train medical students in group dynamics during small group learning activities and Problem Based Learning. MEUs help in monitoring and development of the curriculum providing suitable design and innovations. MEUs assist curriculum committee in areas of instructional methods, clinical teaching and student assessment. MEUs help in restructuring of the educational environment to meet the new curriculum objectives and to encourage students to mature as a self-learner and the teacher to become a facilitator.

MEUs can function as a think-tank to lead research. MEUs can provide required peer support for medical teachers in the sister medical institutions to contribute positively to medical education.

Initiating an MEU does not guarantee the improved state of affairs of medical education in an institute, unless the department is actively executing its well thought and clearly defined objectives to achieve fruitful results.

It is extremely vital for any institution, to know where it wants to be in the next five to ten years and how it plans to reach there. The leading mission for the MEUs should be to develop a strategic plan for the medical college it serves. All the stakeholders must be taken on board for this plan. After developing a strategic plan for the institution it is serving, the Department can then further define a number of tasks it needs to carry out. The priority of task to be carried out should, again, be decided with mutual collaboration.

Medical education will forge ahead, sprouting to harmonize the outburst of biomedical scientific knowledge and become more relevant for changing healthcare needs of the society. For us this is the time to exhibit academic collaboration among various medical colleges of public sector as well as private sector to pull ourselves out of old conventional teaching system and to implement these modern reforms and this should be considered as our supreme national responsibility.