dr. David Lenihan, Ph.D., JD, FRSM is the CEO/Co-Founder of Tiber Health and the president of Ponce Health Sciences University.
American medical education is an overlooked resource that has the potential to achieve significant positive outcomes around the world. It can improve and save lives, build better doctors and create new trading opportunities. But to enable these opportunities, it must be made available as a curriculum enhancement in international medical schools.
American medical schools have a predominant presence among their global peers. In the American news ranking of “Best Global Universities for Clinical Medicine” 15 out of 20 of the world’s best medical schools are located in America. This dominance can also be seen in the UK QS World University Rankings for medicines (11 of the top 20), China’s academic ranking of world universities in clinical medicine (12 of the top 20), and the British Times Higher Education world ranking of universities in clinical health (8 of the top 20). The unbiased conclusion of this impressive stand is that American medical education has tremendous cachet, significance and value.
Many medical schools in areas like Mexico, India, China, Vietnam, and the Philippines (together responsible for) about 40% of immigrants to the US), as well as Congo and Syria (from which a significant refugee population has settled here) already offer their programs in English to attract international students. This existing structure would enable schools to achieve seamless integration with US medical courses based on the latest scientific research and technology.
One distinction that makes American medical education unique is a model with three pillars that schools in the US have started implementation. It combines the study of basic sciences (cell and molecular biology, biochemistry, pharmacology and physiology), clinical sciences (medical treatments, principles and methods) and a new discipline called science of health systems (HSS). HSS is a framework for the study and understanding of how care is delivered, how health professionals work together to deliver that care, and how being more attuned to the unique needs, challenges and backgrounds of patients can improve patient care and healthcare. The integration of this third pillar into the American medical school curriculum provides a comprehensive understanding among new physicians of the many interconnected facets of modern medicine, in addition to a more patient-centered perspective.
The addition of American medical school curricula to global classrooms would follow a two-step presentation method:
Course lectures would be introduced using a dynamic classroom approach, where students would watch videos of the lectures before going to class, and analyze how students interacted with the course content. While in class, students would then participate in question and answer sessions based on the lectures and led by a faculty member in the classroom. This locally based, practicing physician would explain and demonstrate how the courses are put into practice in real-life situations.
The above presentation approach, which has: has been shown to maximize content clarity and increase student understanding would bring valuable “made in the USA” enrichments to international medical school courses.
To find trusted business counselors in the countries where U.S. medical schools intend to make their curricula available, the schools may use advice from the U.S. Department of State’s Office of Commercial and Business Affairs. I work with the OCBA and strongly recommend this approach. OCBA “serves as the focal point for the Department’s outreach to U.S. business and has primary responsibility within the Department for developing, analyzing and coordinating efforts to strongly support and facilitate U.S. business interests abroad.” Simply put, OCBA could guide the schools to vetted professional service providers in the countries concerned. These providers would help set up the business agreements and technology upgrades that need to be done to make the exported courses available to client schools and their students.
The benefits of this proposal would be many and far-reaching:
• The graduates of these schools would become familiar with current US medical practices/technology and would be willing to bring their talents to their country, as well as areas in the US where their fellow citizens have settled.
• The upgrades that exported US medical education provides to global programs could allow schools to expand enrollment and capacity, helping to address the global physician shortage.
• Clinical care facilities where students from the worldwide schools would gain experience in treating the local population would be established together with every worldwide medical school.
• US hospitals in areas of the country with immigrant/refugee populations from global regions where medical education has been exported from the US could offer stays to foreign doctors who are capable, culturally competent and better able to meet the health challenges of the population.
U.S. medical schools that would be interested in making their courses available as enhancements to the curricula of schools around the world should follow a simple four-step process:
1. Schools should digitize their teaching materials.
2. They should develop their IT infrastructure so that they can broadcast their courses from anywhere.
3. They should partner with schools in targeted regions that have the necessary local faculty talent and stable IT facilities/bandwidth. These would be essential to facilitate effective classroom instruction and successful technical delivery of the courses.
4. Under the guidance of OCBA, they should find experienced and reliable business service providers in the global regions where they want to launch their course offerings. These providers would help implement the business/technical arrangements that will allow the partnerships to get off to a good start and thrive.
Derchat Keltner, a social psychologist and author, described: soft power as an ability to inspire people through ‘generosity and empowerment’, as well as ’empathy, compassion and respect’. It is an academic asset that can enable improved learning, improved health outcomes and new avenues to prosperity around the world.