“Can medical school be taught online?” In 2002, when Oceania University of Medicine (OUM) was founded, many members of the medical community said no.

In truth, the answer is “yes” for the first half and “absolutely not” for the second half.

“Clinical training during the final years of medical school must be done face-to-face in a teaching hospital. Period. There is no substitute for hands-on learning side-by-side with medical faculty,” says Khrystal Boone, MD, OUM’s Dean for North America.

Yet, during the last two decades, educational technology has gone through a remarkable evolution. Years ago, Oceania University of Medicine established its distance-learning medical curriculum to address the doctor shortage in its island home of Samoa and throughout the South Pacific. What evolved was interest from prospective medical students located in additional remote locations around the globe.

OUM’s pre-clinical curriculum is delivered via live, interactive virtual classrooms during the first two years, guiding students in their mastery of basic sciences and system-based material, explains Dr. Boone.

The study of medicine becomes achievable

“Long before Zoom classes became the norm, we made medical school accessible to qualified individuals who simply could not uproot their lives for four years to move near a medical campus,” says Dr. Boone. “Many OUM students had medical school in the back of their mind since they were children, but life happened — careers, mortgages, children. Many were accepted at traditional medical schools but work and family responsibilities simply made their goal unreachable,” she adds.

There are 288 students currently enrolled at OUM, many non-traditional medical students with an average age of 40.5 years. They live primarily in Australia, New Zealand, Samoa, and North America — 42 percent hold master’s degrees and 8 percent have earned a doctorate. While most of OUM’s faculty resides in Australia and the US, others teach from their home countries of India, Russia, St. Lucia, the Philippines, and elsewhere.

“A medical education is no longer limited by time and place,” says Dr. Boone. “For people who previously could not consider becoming a physician, a flexible curriculum allows them to overcome personal, professional, and geographic barriers to attend medical school.”

Clinical rotations during the University’s clinical curriculum are arranged at affiliated teaching hospitals primarily in Australia, the US, and on OUM’s campus in Samoa, in addition to other teaching sites.

Located on the grounds of the National Health Complex in Apia, Samoa, OUM is accredited by the Philippine Accrediting Association of Schools, Colleges and Universities, listed in the World Health Organization’s World Directory of Medical Schools, and recognized by the Education Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates. Having passed their respective licensing examinations, OUM graduates currently practice medicine in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Samoa, and the US.

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