The development of regional exchange programs for health professions students in Africa helped bridge a long-existing educational opportunities gap and build multilateral partnerships between institutions on the continent, according to a recent journal article authored by staff of the Foundation for Advancement of International Medical Education and Research (FAIMER), a member of Intealth.
The article, Developing an African medical and health professions student regional elective exchange program: approaches and lessons learned, was published May 19 in MedEdPublish. It was authored by Faith Nawagi, Africa Regional Representative; Anna Iacone, retired Senior Associate; Justin Seeling, Associate Chief of Staff; and Snigdha Mukherjee, Senior Associate.
The Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG), a member of Intealth, and FAIMER launched an African regional elective exchange program through the Global Educational Exchange in Medicine and the Health Professions (GEMx) initiative in 2016. Just four years after launch, the GEMx Africa regional elective exchange program included 34 medical colleges and health professions programs in 15 African countries that benefited nearly 200 students at the undergraduate and postgraduate levels.
“The program successfully bridged a long-existing gap of inadequate opportunities for African health professional students to enhance their global exposure through IMEs (international medical electives). As a result, students gained transferable knowledge and skills through exposure to other disease burdens and health care settings,” according to the article. “Furthermore, the program helped to strengthen the various institutional networks’ capacity-building agenda in medicine and the health professions through strong multilateral partnerships and a unified commitment to effective IMEs.”
Though the GEMx Africa regional exchange program was discontinued in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, FAIMER continues to move forward with health professions education programming and capacity-building efforts in Africa. The GEMx program is undergoing restructuring to focus on postgraduate clinical exchanges in areas of critical workforce development need in Africa, starting with ophthalmology. In addition, FAIMER has developed a three-year virtual interprofessional elective exchange program, in partnership with the African Forum for Research and Education in Health (AFREhealth) and funded by a National Institutes of Health grant.