MEDICAL SCHOOL ACCREDITATION: Why does it matter?
Many countries have more applications submitted to their medical schools than there are slots available. For example, US medical schools typically have about 45,000 applicants for roughly 19,000 seats. Likewise in Australian medical schools, the limited number of applicants vs. available openings accounts for an approximate 5 percent acceptance rate. In both countries and many others, this is why prospective students choose to attend medical schools in another country. There are many fine medical schools throughout the world, but some are accredited, and some are not.
What does accreditation mean?
An accredited medical school has met the criteria of an objective accrediting body appointed by the medical school’s host country. This means that faculty have met certain qualifications, the curriculum has been fully vetted, and medical students have resources available to help them succeed in medical school and to prepare them for practice.
Together with other factors, attending an accredited medical school also means that your education will meet certain accepted standards and may improve your chances of getting a better internship or residency training slot.
However, not all accrediting bodies are created equal. The United States Department of Education’s National Committee on Foreign Medical Education Accreditation (NCFMEA) has set rigorous standards for medical school accrediting bodies to meet. The NCFMEA has determined that 20 medical school accrediting bodies have comparable accreditation criteria to the standards met by US and Canadian institutions. For a look at the list of NCFMEA-approved accrediting bodies, visit https://www2.ed.gov/about/bdscomm/list/ncfmea.html.
Students attending medical schools accredited by accrediting bodies listed on the NCFMEA website can be assured that the school has met certain rigorous standards. Websites of the accrediting agencies frequently list the accreditation status of medical schools under its jurisdiction.
If you are considering a new school or a school that is not widely known, graduating from a medical school accredited by a NCFMEA-recognized body may help medical boards evaluate your application for a license to practice.
Oceania University of Medicine (OUM) is accredited by the Philippine Accrediting Association of Schools, Colleges and Universities, which is among those accrediting bodies whose standards have been determined as comparable to those of the NCFMEA.
Checking out the claim of accreditation
A medical school’s website generally will have accreditation information. But how do you verify its claims?
While there are other organizations that accredit medical schools, no other group that vets medical school accrediting bodies is as well-respected as NCFMEA. A prospective student should check to make sure that the medical school’s accrediting body is listed on the NCFMEA’s website.
Some medical school websites may claim that the school is accredited by the World Health Organization. The WHO is not an accrediting body. It publishes the AVICENNA Directory of Medical Schools with the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, which lists medical schools in each country at the request of their government. It does not have the authority to grant accreditation or recognition to medical schools or its programs. For more information, visit https://avicenna.ku.dk/.
Others may claim to be accredited by the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG) or the Foundation for Advancement of International Medical Education and Research (FAIMER). Neither of these organizations is an accrediting body, though both are committed to promoting excellence in international medical education. Among other activities, FAIMER maintains the International Medical Education Directory and supports ECFMG as it promotes medical education through programmatic and research activities. The ECFMG certifies international medical graduates for entry into US graduate medical education and participates in the evaluation and certification of other physicians and healthcare professionals nationally and internationally. For more information, visit www.faimer.org and www.ecfmg.org.
(Revised October 2021)