Doctors call for caution over alleged 11-year medical degree proposal, as NUC dismisses report
The National Universities Commission (NUC) has refuted reports making the rounds that medical students in Nigerian universities would henceforth study for 11 years before obtaining an MBBS degree.
The NUC Executive Secretary, Prof. Julius Okojie, who cleared the air told The Guardian in Abuja, the new Benchmark Minimum Academic Standard (BMAS) for Medicine and Dentistry, which had since been made public by commission, only provides for a seven-year training, leading to the award of MBBS/MDS.
“A seven year MBBS programme that encompass a seamless four- year acquision of the B.SC. Basic Medical Science with interest in either Anatomy/Physiology/Biochemistry.
“At the end of seven years, students would have acquired the Bachelor of Medical Science, Bachelorof Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery degrees. In case of dental programmes, students would have acquired a degree in Basic Dental Sciences and Bachelor of Dental Surgery.
Earlier in the day, Commonwealth Medical Association had called for caution over the alleged plans by the National Universities Commission (NUC) has come to introduce a new eleven (11) undergraduate training curriculum for medicine and dentistry in Nigeria.
Worried about the vague nature of the planned introduction, the Association has asked NUC and the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria (MDCN) clear the air on the contentious issue.
Vice President of the group, and immediate Past President of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA)
Dr. Osahon Enabulele, in a statement in Abuja, noted that the issue was worrisome and capable of causing unnecessary tension among parent, students and other stakeholders.
Recently, there were media reports that the National Universities Commission (NUC) has declared that any student who wants to study medicine and dentistry in Nigeria will henceforth spend a minimum of 11 years in the university.
This statement was attributed to the Executive Secretary of the NUC, Prof. Julius Okojie, whose representative, Prof. Chiedu Mafiana (the Deputy Executive Secretary of the NUC) was said to have made the declaration in a lecture delivered at the maiden matriculation and inauguration of the University of Medical Science, Ondo, Ondo State.
In a lecture titled ‘Development of Medical Education: Prospects and Challenges‘, Okojie, was quoted to have said that ‘the new 2015 medical/dental training curriculum document provided for medical students to spend the first four years in studying basic sciences in the university after which they would proceed to the medical school to spend another seven years in order to enable the students mature psychologically for the profession’.
Enabulele noted: “While I am tempted to doubt these statements said to have been made by the Executive Secretary of the NUC during that fortuitous and landmark event that took place in Ondo State, I am grossly worried that if no prompt clarifications are offered then Nigerians will be left to imagine and suffer from the innumerable consequences of such a strange policy initiative.
“My doubt of those statements credited to the Executive Secretary of the NUC is founded on information available to me. In fact, what I knew before this talk of 10 or 11 years emanated was the fact that the debates before now were centred on a proposed 7year MBBS/BDS programme (for medicine and dentistry) that embraces a mandatory 4yr programme which leads to the acquisition of a B.Sc in either Anatomy, Physiology, or Biochemistry, before proceeding to acquire the MBBS or BDS. With this 7yr proposal (which is still being debated), at the successful completion of the 7yr medical programme, such an individual would acquire the Bachelor of Basic Medical Science, Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery degrees. In the same vein, for Dental students, they would acquire a degree in Basic Dental Science and a Bachelor of Dental Surgery. So, all together, the proposal was for an individual entering the medical school to spend 7yrs rather than the current 6yr MBBS/BDS programme. So, unless something more dramatic happened in the last few weeks, with respect to medical education curriculum development in Nigeria, this is the information that was available before now.
“In any case, let me state here that I really don’t think it is even appropriate to say that there is such a policy in place. Such a policy initiative on medical/dental education curriculum development in Nigeria, which is bound to impact on the cost of training of a doctor and people’s proclivity for the medical profession (particularly so, with the declining purchasing power of Nigerians and worsening misery index as a result of the very harsh and depressing economic situation currently being experienced in Nigeria), cannot be undertaken arbitrarily by the National University Commission (NUC). This is because even though medical education in Nigeria seem to fall under two ministries, namely: Education and Health, the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria (MDCN) is pre-eminently vested with the power to determine the standards of knowledge and skill to be attained by persons seeking to become members of the medical and dental profession and reviewing those standards from time to time, as expressed in section 1, subsection 2 (a) of the Medical and Dental Practitioners Act CAP M8 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004. Indeed, the MDCN has the imprimatur to regulate medical education, training and practice in Nigeria. So, unless such a pronouncement on a change in medical education curriculum in Nigeria is made by the MDCN, any pronouncement made by any other body without the agreement of the MDCN is totally nugatory and an exercise in futility.”
He went on: “The idea that the curriculum change was effected to enable the students mature psychologically for the profession is baffling and ludicrous. I am not aware that ability to cope with the rigorous and laborious training offered in medical schools is dependent on the age of the students. Available evidence does not suggest that. Seriously, I don’t think you have to be a grandparent to study medicine or dentistry in Nigeria or other parts of the world.
“Indeed, while I admit that there is need to dynamically improve and modify the current 6year medical/dental training curriculum in Nigeria to make it an all-encompassing curriculum, capable of producing medical and dental practitioners that are responsive to the 21st century needs of their communities, I must however state that this improvement does not necessarily require an increase in the duration of medical and dental education/training in Nigeria.
“Beyond the quality and content of the medical/dental curriculum and the need for regular dynamic reviews, a lot of factors impinge on the quality of medical/dental education/training and the quality of medical practice in Nigeria. These factors will need to be holistically and effectively managed to get the best out of medical/dental education in Nigeria. For instance, the quality and number of entrants into medical school is very important.
He went further: “Therefore, before such pronouncements are made and circulated in the news media, I expect the policy regulators to have deeply reflected on its pros and cons before seeking to experiment with it. I expect them to appropriately balance the benefits with the cost, with both the quality of medical education/practice and the health of Nigerians taken into good account.
“Pending further clarifications from the NUC on the news story making the rounds; it is crystal clear that any policy that seeks to increase the duration of training to 10 or 11 years will be an arduous one that bristles with reverberating and convulsive implications. In my view, it is better to modify and improve the contents of the existing medical/dental training curriculum rather than this talk of a 10 or 11yr programme. I consider such contemplation as an ill wind that will blow our country and her citizens no good, and therefore should be regarded as dead on arrival.”
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