The Open University (OU) in the United Kingdom has been awarded funding to work with the Distance Learning Medical Centre (DLMC) program in Ethiopia. The program, led by FAIMER international faculty member Professor Janet Grant (Director of the Centre for Education in Medicine at OU) and Professor Mike Stewart (OU Faculty of Science), will train doctors specifically for practice in areas of the country that currently have limited medical provision.
Ethiopia has a severe shortage of doctors. Currently around 95% of medical students emigrate after qualifying, leaving fewer than 700 doctors in the public sector to serve the country’s population of 80 million. The DLMC will assist the Ethiopian government to achieve its target of producing 11,000 additional doctors. Funding has been generously provided by The Open University alumni and by Ethiopiaid, a charitable organization dedicated to improving conditions in Ethiopia by fighting poverty and poor health, and by improving education. The funding will enable the development of a distance learning component to support the existing integrated curriculum at St. Paul’s Millennium Medical School in Addis Ababa, which opened in 2008.
The DLMC program includes basic science and clinical training, as well as community experience. It will produce doctors with the competence to practice without supervision in a rural setting. Students studying the program have been selected not only for their academic ability but also for their motivation to remain in Ethiopia once they qualify.
Open education and distance learning have enormous potential to allow Ethiopia to expand its medical training rapidly despite a shortage of trainers. It also offers a cost-effective and efficient way of delivering a high-quality medical curriculum that meets World Federation for Medical Education (WFME) Global Standards for medical schools. This model of learning can also be used to support skills development and further the training of medical staff already working in the field in remote and rural areas.
The DLMC program is designed to develop distance learning systems and materials that can also be applied to other schools in similar situations. Dr. Grant hopes that FAIMER Fellows from other parts of Africa will be involved in the project.