LAHORE - While there is uncertainty around how medical education will look in the post-pandemic era, the Asian health experts agreed that COVID-19 has created a critical need to transform various aspects of medical education to reflect the changing health landscape. “The teaching and learning of medicine has historically been slow to change, but rapid changes seen during the COVID-19 pandemic show that the profession is capable of being nimble. 

The current upheaval represents an opportunity for experimentation in how undergraduate and postgraduate medical education is delivered”, said University of Health Sciences (UHS) Vice-Chancellor, Prof Javed Akram on Thursday, while adding that it is time to embrace competency-based training and expand the use of technology in medical education.

He was addressing, through video-link, at the inaugural session of South and Southeast Medical Education and Service Alliance (SSAMESA) Conference, hosted by Kunming Medical University, China.  UHS is the only medical university from Pakistan to become the member of this thirteen-nation alliance.

The alliance is a non-profit and regional medical universities and health institutions consortium established to promote cooperation in the fields of students exchange, talent cultivation, teacher team building, scientific research and social service.

In his address, Javed Akram said that the crisis had created a need and opportunity to overcome institutional and historic barriers to change, facilitating rapid implementation of educational advancements.

“Technology and novel means of learning, including online resources, simulation, video conferencing and virtual reality, must be embraced to facilitate ongoing medical education”, he said while emphasizing the need of developing a system of credit transfer across institutions and boundaries to facilitate student mobility.

Kunming Medical University’s President, Prof Li Song said the coronavirus crisis had impacted both higher education and the field of medicine in a myriad of ways.

“There is no doubt the field of medicine has been uniquely impacted by the pandemic. 

Not only have we witnessed the importance of having a robust healthcare system, but the pandemic has created a critical need to explore some of the potential areas that may see significant changes”, he opined. 

 

Prof Li Song identified virtual and artificial reality as being one of the biggest technology trends that would transform medicine and healthcare in 2020.  

The Vice-Minister of Ministry of Public Health, Thailand, Dr Samrerng Yanggratokeh said that the use of innovative technologies and processes might soon be essential components in the long-term future of medical education. 

“Institutions need to urgently adapt; training students to work alongside new technologies and processes and explore new ways to learn and practice with ongoing mobility restrictions”, he stressed.  

In the opening session of the conference, two medical universities from Bangladesh and Sri Lanka were added as new alliance members with the majority of votes from the member universities.

The health experts who spoke included Kunming Medical University’s Prof Xie Baosheng, Mahidol University’s Prof Banchong Mahaisavariya, China Medical University’s Professor Liu Ying, Banggabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University’s Professor Sharfuddin Ahmed and University of Malaya’s Professor Nazirah Hasnan.