Health

Private medical school launched in Jamaica

Sunday, September 10, 2017

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ON Wednesday, the first private medical school to be owned by Caribbean nationals — Caribbean School of Medical Sciences, Jamaica (CSMSJ) — was officially launched in Kingston.

The wholly owned Jamaican-chartered institution joins 40 other mainly offshore medical schools that are located in the Caribbean-basin region, which gives the region the distinction of having the most medical schools per capita in the world, a release said.

In presenting an overview of the institution during the launch at Jamaica Pegasus hotel last week, executive dean and Cuban-trained medical doctor, Neville Graham, spoke of the foundations on which the school was built two years ago that have enabled it to score records of 95 per cent and 85 per cent passes in the Caribbean Association of Medical Council (CAMC) examinations for doctors and interns who had studied outside of the Caribbean and sought licences to practise in Jamaica.

“We are blessed in Jamaica with many outstanding physicians and excellent teachers of the medical sciences. And the CSMSJ has drawn from that pool, that include academicians, teachers, and researchers from Cuba, USA, Nigeria, and India to train our students,” Graham said.

Other pillars on which he pins the future of the institution being amongst the best medical schools in the world, are its small class sizes with individual tutors; an integrated medical curriculum of the organ system approach; and a methodology of lecture, laboratory, tutorial and clinical instructions which correlates with continuous assessments.

The release said CSMSJ is also actively promoting the PASS United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) review programme, as an additional examination to be taken by its students.

The PASS institution, which is located in the USA, has successfully trained more than 20,000 physicians to receive excellent grades in the USLME and are therefore licensed to practise and complete post-graduate training in in the USA, the release continued.

The school is said to have specialised academic courses in sports medicine, health tourism, tropical medicine, public health, and the business of medicine. The executive dean pointed out, too, that students of CSMSJ are trained in the second language of Spanish, which facilitates their clinical rotations in Cuba.

The associate degree in pre-med, which seamlessly transfers students into the medical doctor programme after a 16-month period involving four semesters, has been found to be extremely popular with students, especially recent graduates from high schools, the release said.

Meanwhile, Minister of Education, Youth and Information Senator Ruel Reid, who was the event's keynote speaker, underscored the timely launch of the CSMSJ, which “marks a further widening of the road which facilitates access to quality tertiary education in Jamaica”.

This, he said, was reinforced by statistics from the World Health Organization (WHO) which estimates that about 4.8 million health workers, including 2.3 million physicians, will be needed to treat 80 per cent of the world's health care needs.

Minister Reid continued: “The USA estimates that it will need 20,000-35,000 additional physicians annually. Many of these are recruited from emerging economies, including Jamaica, where 70 per cent of our medical graduates migrate to the US, Canada or the UK.”

He noted, too, that the emergence of CSMSJ as a degree-granting institution provides an excellent opportunity that not only enables Jamaica to achieve the WHO-recommended ratio of one physician to every 600 people in the country — moving it from the current one physician to 1,300 people ratio — but allows the country to tap into the pool in the USA where “an average 600,000-650,000 students apply to medical schools per year, with only 19,000-20,000 getting acceptance”.

Professor Dennis Gayle, executive chancellor of the University of the Commonwealth Caribbean, in his remarks as a partnering institution with CSMSJ, noted the growth of the medical school since its first intake of pre-med students in April 2015, which was followed in August of the same year with its first cohort of students pursuing the four-year doctor of medicine degree. CSMSJ is now registering its third cohort of medical students.

“The CSMSJ, which focuses not only on recruiting local students with an affordable programme of studies but also those in the Diaspora as well as international students, is moving rapidly in the area of accreditation, having recently been granted chartered institution status with the Government of Jamaica, so that students will be able to access loans for their studies in due course,” Gayle said.

Professor Gayle also pointed out that the University of the Commonwealth Caribbean is in the process of finalising arrangements for academic collaboration and research with the Caribbean School of Medical Sciences, Jamaica, as well as partnership involving areas such as marketing and campus facility use.

He concluded that “both our entrepreneurial institutions seek to enrich the higher educational landscape in Jamaica and beyond, while providing excellent teaching and learning opportunities for our students”.

In the meantime, the school's board member, Professor Grossett Oliver, in his remarks, pointed to the board's commitment to ensuring that the institution is numbered among the best of its kind in the world while also working with the Ministry of Education and the Government in developing public-private partnerships.

This, he noted further, would enable the training of more Jamaicans to become doctors and other health care professionals — as well as people from other nationalities — as the country strives to enhance education tourism as one of the steps towards the transformation of some towns and cities into university towns.

At the launch Wednesday, vocalists Dimario McDowell, Jasmine Black and Reggae Roots Artiste Yeza presented cultural pieces which provided the proverbial “icing on the cake”.

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