No To Proposed Elongation Of Doctors’ Training


BEVERLY HILLS, March 28, (THEWILL) – Studying medicine in Nigerian universities may soon become a herculean task if on-going debate to extend the duration of doctors' training, from the current six to between seven and 11 years, sees the light of the day.

The Executive Secretary of the National Universities Commission (NUC), Prof. Julius Okojie, had confirmed that the new Benchmark Minimum Academic Standard (BMAS) for Medicine and Dentistry, would be extended to seven-year training, leading to the award of MBBS/MDS.

A new twist was however added by Prof Chiedu Mafiana of the NUC, who while speaking as Okojie's representative at a lecture on “Development of Medical Education, Prospects and Challenges,” disclosed that the commission might consider increasing the duration to 11 years. He spoke at the maiden matriculation and inauguration of University of Medical Science, in Ondo State.

According to him, the first four years will be spent studying basic sciences, while the next seven will be at the medical school. This he said, would aid students' psychological growth and maturity for the future challenges, describing the existing curriculum as “faulty.”

THEWILL is perturbed by the proposed extension, which if implemented, would be counter-productive, both in terms of cost implication and psyche of the medical students. With every sense of responsibility, the falling standard of education in Nigeria, medical studies inclusive, is not about duration of studies, but poor facilities and unfavourable learning environment.

We recall that in 1960, the first 13 medical students, who were trained to internationally-accepted standard, graduated from the then University College, now University of Ibadan. Since then, Nigerian universities have produced thousands of doctors. In line with global standard practice, the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria (MDCN) has not failed in its oversight functions.

Proponents of the extension should not be lost to the landmark contributions of Nigerian-trained doctors to global healthcare. For instance, the Foundation for Advancement of International Medical Education (FAIMER), which analyzed Nigerian Medical School graduates and the U.S Physician Workforce, indicated that, “Nigeria has historically been considered as one of the leading countries in the export of physicians.”

Only five years ago, it was reported by the Nigerian Health Journal that 2,392 Nigerian-trained doctors, practice in the US, while 1,529 others reside in the UK. This is outside the numbers, who have excelled in other nations of the world. Interestingly, the minimum entry requirement for the attainment of this feat has remained the West African School Certificate, with the concomitant age-bracket.

Therefore, to argue that immaturity and faulty curriculum account for poor quality of medical graduates is sentimentally rooted. Given the recurring instability in the sector, due to strikes and riots, including the challenges faced by medical students in getting placement for internships, any further extension of their duration of studies would compound the setting.

THEWILL calls on the NUC to collaborate with relevant agencies to upgrade the facilities in our medical institutions. There are records of students who graduated in their twenties, and have excelled in their contributions to the health sector.

THEWILL recalls the recent cases of Maryam Opeyemi Raji and Idongesit Eseneyen, who at 21, graduated as Nigeria's youngest doctors, from the Universities of Lagos and Uyo respectively.

Whatever therefore is wrong with the curriculum of medical studies should be holistically reviewed by the NUC, to align with global standard. Anything short of this would have far-reaching implications on the nation's healthcare delivery system.