A glut of medical schools in Malaysia

Related article: A doctor too many by Dr Hsu Dar Ren, The Malaysian Insider

The author’s fears about the explosion of medical schools diluting the quality of medical graduates in Malaysia, is certainly nothing new. His hypothesis for this rise in medical schools is an attempt at flooding the market with new graduates, saturating the private sector and thus making government positions a Hobson’s choice.

Medical education is a lucrative business venture. There are many students out there aspiring to be doctors. Most are unable to study medicine as a result of poor scores. However, the warped belief that medicine is the holy grail, has led many to part with huge sums of money to study medicine. As many new medical schools are private ventures, the bottom line is certainly profit. It would make little business sense to reject an application that can rake in from RM250,000 to RM 750,000 for the duration of the course. The quality of applicants then become secondary.

The success of these medical students will in turn reflect on the respective medical school. A high failure rate will deter many aspiring applicants, causing a loss in business terms. This is unacceptable to them. Hence, pass grades for these schools are compromised to preserve the ‘prestige’ and subsequently to maintain the appeal of the medical school. These medical graduates are then allowed to serve in our population.

If you check with the World Health Organisation website, there are only a handful of medical schools being recognised, enabling their graduates the ability of obtaining working permits in many countries. About two thirds of our 24 medical schools are not in this list, making their graduates only marketable in Malaysia with a population of 28 million inhabitants. The WHO offers a universal benchmark of quality medical education. As of to date, only UM, UKM, USM, UMS and IMU have been fully recognised. The application of IIU, PMC, MMMC and UPM is pending approval. Is the Malaysian public being hoodwinked into believing that our doctors are safe and competent?

Many of us in medical education have seen the deteriorating quality of new medical graduates. This is hardly surprising as , from the lowering of minimal requirements for admission to the lack of medical lecturers, standards are being compromised in a field where such erroneous approach can be literally fatal.

Unfortunately, the die has been cast. Revoking licenses for these medical schools may not augur well with the elite in control. However, the Government must be urged to maintain high standards of quality medical education. Afterall, we will all one day have to call upon these doctors to treat our very own selves.