The idea of establishing a separate foundation developed from the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates’ (ECFMG) long-standing commitment to promoting excellence in international medical education. This commitment began with ECFMG’s first faculty exchange program in 1983. In the years that followed, ECFMG increased resources for exchange programs, introduced consultation services, and considered a number of research initiatives related to international medical schools and their graduates. However, ECFMG’s Board of Trustees believed that more could be accomplished by a separate organization with dedicated resources focused on the international health professions community. Discussions began in early 2000, and, in July of that year, the ECFMG Board of Trustees approved a resolution to establish an ECFMG foundation.
The Foundation for Advancement of International Medical Education and Research (FAIMER) was incorporated as a nonprofit foundation of ECFMG in September 2000, and FAIMER’s Board of Directors held its first organizational meeting in December 2000. An executive search initiated at the end of 2001 resulted in recruitment of the Foundation’s first President and Chief Executive Officer, John J. Norcini, Ph.D., who joined FAIMER in May 2002. Throughout the period from 2001 through 2003, the membership of the Foundation’s Board expanded with the election of Directors-at-Large. By the end of 2003, all positions had been filled, and, in April 2004, the Board held its first meeting with full membership.
Beginning in 2001, FAIMER’s Directors initiated strategic planning to define the Foundation’s focus and priorities. These planning sessions culminated, in 2004, in the adoption of a formal strategic plan that identifies the Foundation’s areas of thematic and geographic focus, as well as short- and long-term goals for each area of activity. A number of key staff appointments and reorganization of FAIMER’s Board, both accomplished in 2004, ensure the expertise and oversight required to support the activities outlined in the plan.
According to FAIMER’s strategic plan, the Foundation will concentrate its efforts in three thematic areas: creating educational opportunities for health professions educators, discovering patterns and disseminating knowledge, and developing data resources. In approaching these activities, the Foundation will maximize its impact by concentrating its efforts and resources in specific, geographical areas: developing regions in South Asia, Africa, and Latin America. The strategic plan also calls for FAIMER to identify and collaborate with appropriate partners to leverage resources and maximize impact.
Results have been achieved in each of FAIMER’s three areas of activity. In keeping with its goal of developing resources on medical education worldwide, FAIMER introduced the International Medical Education Directory (IMED) in 2002 and enhanced access to IMED in 2003 with the introduction of the IMED Subscription Service. In 2004, development of two new directories was approved: the Directory of Organizations that Recognize/Accredit Medical Schools and the Postgraduate Medical Education (PME) Project. In 2014, FAIMER and the World Federation for Medical Education (WFME) announced the launch of the World Directory of Medical Schools. This new resource is the result of a 2012 agreement to merge the organizations’ respective directories—FAIMER’s International Medical Education Directory (IMED) and WFME’s Avicenna Directory—to produce a single comprehensive resource on undergraduate medical education worldwide. In 2016, the World Directory Subscription Service was launched. With respect to its commitment to create resources for health professions educators, the transition of ECFMG’s educational programs for the international health professions community, which began in 2001, has been completed, and the Foundation established a new fellowship program, the FAIMER Institute, in 2001. FAIMER has aligned these programs to create a pathway for educational leadership for international health professions educators. In the realm of research, FAIMER staff have identified important questions regarding international medical graduates and medical education and have engaged with the data resources and organizational partners that will enable meaningful research on these issues.