The Philippine Accrediting Association for Schools, Colleges and Universities (PAASCU) has extended Oceania University of Medicine’s accreditation through 2025, thus validating OUM’s program as competitive on the world stage and ensuring that its graduates may practice in most global countries.
This news caps a year-long self-study of University areas of faculty, curriculum & instruction, clinical training facilities, research, students, library, administration, and facilities & other resources. In early March, the site visit team of four prominent medical educators and a leading librarian from the Philippines visited OUM in Australia and New Zealand, with planned visits to Samoa and the United States cut short due to the coronavirus.
As a result of COVID-19 concerns and related travel bans in the Philippines, PAASCU’s Board of Directors recently suspended all site visits for the next 12 months, which would have delayed OUM’s re-accreditation. However, upon the enthusiastic recommendation of OUM’s reviewers, PAASCU’s Commission on Medical Education convinced the PAASCU Board to grant OUM its full accreditation for another five years.
Early impressions, lasting Impressions
For the March visit, the PAASCU team flew from the Philippines to Melbourne to attend the Australia-New Zealand Student Conference, where they interviewed students, graduates, faculty, and administration. In addition, they received a demonstration of the OUM Student Information System, observed student learning activities and a clinical student in action with a patient, and witnessed an OUM Graduation ceremony. In Auckland, led by Dr. C.S. Benjamin, Dean for New Zealand and the Asia-Pacific, the team had tours of clinical facilities where OUM students rotate and met with clinical supervisors and medical students.
The reviewers were most impressed with what they heard and saw in both Melbourne and Auckland. Because the group’s chairperson had previously visited clinical sites in Samoa and the USA, the panel felt confident that it would see the same results, if not better. Therefore, they felt there was no need to continue with those visits.
“Congratulations to all for contributing to the ongoing processes of accreditation with PAASCU over the past five years,” says Dr. Viali Lameko, Vice Chancellor. “I look forward to another five years of working together to achieve even more great news for our institution.”
During the site visit, the PAASCU team commented on how excellent, thorough, and “voluminous” the reports and accompanying exhibits were. Extensive interviews with students, graduates, faculty, administration, and staff confirmed what the team saw in the reports.
“We are proud of the University’s accomplishments and this international recognition of OUM’s excellence, and we are most appreciative of the people of Samoa for their ongoing hospitality toward our students and faculty, who so value the opportunity to study and work there,” says Taffy Gould, OUM’s founder and Chairman of the OUM Council.
Ten teams compared the performance of OUM operations against a self-study survey instrument used by PAASCU for the medical schools in the Philippines. Students, graduates, faculty, and administrators participated in the self-study exercise, which included identifying areas of strengths and weaknesses and making recommendations for improvement. Combined with data from student and faculty surveys and other performance indicators, a written report was compiled.
Totaling 928 pages, the reports were submitted to PAASCU in January, when Dr. Randell Brown, OUM Deputy Vice Chancellor and Chris Dudley, Deputy Vice Chancellor for Administration and Student Affairs traveled to Manila to give an overview of OUM to the accreditation team and to prepare the team for the site visits.
The PAASCU team awarded OUM an overall score of 3.57 out of 5.00 in 10 study areas, which is well between “good: provision is met and functioning adequately” and “very good: provision is moderately extensive and functioning well.” In 2015, OUM’s overall score of eight areas was 3.37 out of a perfect 5.00.
“The scores of all areas were well above a 3.00, which is really good for us,” says Dudley. “We’ve worked hard during the past five years to address the team’s recommendations and to improve our overall performance.”
Among other things, the PAASCU team was complimentary of (quoting from their findings):
“highly-dedicated faculty with passion for teaching and compassion for learners;
the well-designed curricular tracks that cater to diverse types of learners;
the availability of various opportunities for clinical rotation in advanced centers, and the dedicated physician mentors;
the involvement of the institution in the provision of health services in Samoa with the aim of training physicians who will eventually practice in the region;
institutionalization of the weekly Research Club where advisors and students interact on the progress and problems of the students’ research projects;
medical students [are] very mature and highly motivated to realize their lifelong dream to become medical doctors, with various backgrounds and diversity allowing interaction and enriching cultural exchange with one another;
the available extensive online resources that are essential for a distance learning academic institution;
PAASCU’s recommendations for the next five years include (quoting from their findings):
establish relationships with additional Australian clinical facilities, and US clinical affiliations;
incorporating patient education programs in the clinical training activities of the students rotating in the primary care setting;
increasing research output focusing on the health needs of Samoa and its other island nations;
designing higher-order examination questions to evaluate clinical problem-solving and reasoning skills;
forming a strong alumni association to enhance loyalty to the school and stronger ties between the alumni and the students;
forging academic and scholarly linkages with other institutions, consortia, and foundations;
The Significance of Accreditation
When establishing the world’s first distance learning program in medical education, OUM leaders knew early in the University’s existence that external validation would be essential to its acceptance within the medical profession. In addition, medical licensing and registration authorities require physicians practicing in their jurisdictions to have graduated from an accredited medical school.
Following a comprehensive search for an accreditation body willing to evaluate its program, OUM applied for accreditation with PAASCU, conducted a self-study, underwent a site visit, and was granted “candidate” status in 2009. In 2010, following another detailed self-study and site visit to measure the implementation of the recommendations made by the PAASCU team the prior year, OUM was granted full accreditation.