Medical Education Partnership Initiative Site Visit
MEPI is funded by the United States government, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and PEPFAR. There are 13 beneficiaries in Africa, mostly in sub-Saharan Africa, who receive PEPFAR support to help develop and boost models of medical education.
MEPI is responsible for the Enhancing Training, Research and Education Strategy (The ENTRÉE) introduced at UKZN. The initiative has an undergraduate, postgraduate and faculty component to accelerate the educational programme so that when MEPI withdraws the activities continue.
The vision of MEPI is aligned to that of the National Department of Health - a long and healthy life for all South Africans. The initiative provides leadership in the focused areas of KwaZulu-Natal and its goals and objectives are seen within UKZN as projects imbedded in Clinical Medicine, Nursing and Public Health, Health Sciences and Laboratory Medicine and Medical Sciences.
Professor Umesh Lalloo, Communicating Principal Investigator for the MEPI programme as well as a Professor, Chief Specialist, and Head of the Respiratory and Critical Care Unit at UKZN and the Nelson R Mandela School of Medicine, said: ‘MEPI funded the training of 509 nurses in Nurse Initiated Management of Antiretroviral Therapy (NiMART) between 2011 – 2013.
‘We also hope to strengthen the basic epidemiological skills of Nursing undergraduate students by introducing a module in the programme so that students learn the skills to analyse and solve the community problems when undertaking their research projects.
‘With the assistance of MEPI’s United States partner, Columbia University, the Discipline of Nursing has introduced HIV case studies to the Nursing students. These have helped to strengthen the Nursing curriculum and will keep students engaged for years to come,’ said Lalloo.
Dr Myat Htoo Razak, Programme Director of MEPI at the NIH, said the NIH and the site visit team reviewed the progress of MEPI activities and provided support to overcome any obstacles and challenges hindering attainment of MEPI goals. ‘The ultimate goal of MEPI is to provide a direct support of informative models of medical education in sub-Saharan Africa by strengthening clinical and research capacity.’
Director of the MEPI Co-ordinating Centre at the African Centre for Global Health and Social Transformation (ACHEST), Dr Elsie Kiguli-Malwadde, said: ‘In a review of progress for 2010 – 2013, MEPI has improved the medical education and training curricula, along with enhancing the community-based training sites. Strengthening of ICTs and the research capacity building has also resulted from improved faculty recruitment, training and retention. With increased support from Ministries of Health and Education, the collaboration between the world and South Africa has grown.’
MEPI schools are based all over Africa, including at the University of Stellenbosch and at UKZN. MEPI is establishing and strengthening partnerships between African, United States and other institutes in order to transfer skills, capacity and research collaboration to support communities of practice. MEPI allows institutes to share and contribute rather than compete.
MEPI-funded institutions such as UKZN are leading curricula development and quality improvement activities at the Institution and beyond the funded network.
Public Health Specialist for Health Systems Strengthening at the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) and the United States Gypsum (USG) Corporation, Ms Rehmeth Fakroodeen, spoke at the gathering on PEPFAR’s Human Resources for Health (HRH) strategy in South Africa. ‘Health systems need to be strengthened in order to provide sustainable services, and with PEPFAR having 15 focus countries, their vision is to distribute health workers to meet HIV and other health needs as well as to improve the management and development of HRIS.’ Fakroodeen went on to explain that the strengthening of pre-service education institutes would improve the quality and output of graduates.
Professor Joseph Kolars of the University of Michigan and a MEPI consultant, spoke on how to make medical education accountable to society under the title: “Does Better Medical Education Lead to Better Medical Health?”
‘Unfortunately, much of our work hasn’t been designed to answer this,’ said Kolars. ‘There has been a major movement in Medical Health in the USA. We need to ask ourselves, what can we expect doctors to do and how do we know that we can do it? Traditional education models and competency based education models need to be designed explicitly to make an impact. What matters isn’t what you’re teaching, but what people are learning.’
He said with technology changing the education landscape, there was a much greater emphasis on direct learning. With aspects like MOOCs – Massive Open Online Classes - certain universities now had online courses available free of charge for students. Students are now also required to have portfolios to show their experiences and what they’ve learned. ‘Accountable education is about being more attentive.’
Razak explained the difference between the work MEPI was doing at UKZN and that at Stellenbosch. ‘There are many similarities, but also many differences. While both institutes do a lot of rural work, UKZN has a reputation of not only focusing on its work with rural communities but also emphasising teaching and research intensely. The Institute is focused on improving their teaching methods and are constantly working on new projects which have set a high standard for other African countries.
‘They’re leading the way through making innovative decisions that prove to make a vital difference. It’s always very impressive and I feel that with research institutes like CAPRISA and K-RITH, MEPI can also contribute to some of the great research and teaching that is coming out of UKZN,’ said Razak.
- Zakia Jeewa