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NMC seeks accreditation for global recognition of India’s medical colleges

India’s medical education regulator has now applied for recognition by the World Medical Education Federation (WMFE), failing which Indian medical graduates will not be eligible to appear for the United States Medical Licentiate Examination (USMLE) for postgraduate training.

Starting 2024, individuals applying for the Education Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG) certification must be a student or graduate of a medical school that is accredited by a regulatory agency duly recognised by the WMFE.

WMFE is an international organisation working to improve the quality of medical training and it operates in partnership with the World Health Organisation and the World Medical Association.

“We have extended our application for WMFE recognition with details such as how we offer affiliation to medical colleges in India and the plans to strengthen the accreditation process further in order to improve the quality of medical training,” said a senior official in the National Medical Commission (NMC), the body that regulates medical education and professionals in India.

According to the official, the accreditation process may take up to 18 months.

As of now, there are 612 medical colleges that have been granted approval by the NMC to hold MBBS courses in the country of which 322 are government and 290 private colleges. This year, these colleges will induct over 91,000 students in the MBBS course.

The NMC official added that as per existing norms, points considered for granting approval to a medical college include specified infrastructural requirements and resources such as teaching hospital and teachers under the minimum standard requirements.

“However, under the new accreditation system, the focus will also shift to learning outcomes and the quality of doctors being produced in the colleges,” he told Moneycontrol.

While WFME, established in 1972, had been accrediting medical colleges independently, it has now decided that it will only recognize an accreditation agency and approvals granted by this agency, then, will automatically lead to WFME accreditation for an institution.

Crucial shift
Dr Thomas Chacko, a member of the executive committee of the South East Asia Regional Association for Medical Education, a regional grouping of WFME, said medical colleges should be graded on the lines of how the National Accreditation and Assessment Council which accredits institutes of higher education based on a host of parameters.

A scientific paper co-authored by him, which was published in The National Medical Journal of India last year, said that challenges faced by the regulator in India include the need to expand the system of medical education while maintaining quality, increasing private sector participation in providing medical education, the effects of globalization, and laying out norms for a country with diverse cultures and resources.

“Such challenges require the regulator to establish intelligence and risk-based systems that permit them to be proactive to prevent harm,” the paper said.

WFME says the driving forces for international accreditation are a desire to raise standards of education and quality of healthcare, provision of assurance that a doctor had satisfactory preparation in major domains of medicine irrespective of where the training occurred and the policy of ECFMG to admit graduates from appropriately accredited schools for postgraduate training in the US after 2024.

Large number of colleges below par?
Dr C V Bhirmanandham, a former vice-president of the erstwhile Medical Council of India, which was superseded by the NMC, said that while a number of colleges were allowed to be opened over the last several years relaxing the minimum infrastructural standards, very little attention was paid to the doctors passing out of such institutions.

He said that in India while some medical institutions were truly world-class in terms of quality of training for MBBS students, a large number were below par.

“While the quality of training in a number of private medical colleges has been poor, I am afraid that the same may be true also for many new government colleges that have been approved in recent times,” he said.

It is for this reason, said Bhirmanandham, that the MCI had first proposed the National Exit Test (NEXT), a common examination for all final-year MBBS students before they are granted an MBBS degree or licence to practice medicine.

The NMC plans to introduce NEXT from the 2023 academic session.

“Steps such as WFME recognition and NEXT will be important measures to ensure better quality of MBBS doctors in India,”a Bhirmanandham said. Moneycontrol

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