Involving specialist knowledge of the human body and a desire to help others, a career in medicine is a popular choice. Therefore entry requirements for medicinal courses at all levels worldwide are very competitive. At the University of Tasmania (UTAS) in Australia, for example, requirements for the Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery include a high international students admissions test score, an A grade in Chemistry at high school level or equivalent and an Ielts score of 7.0. But for international students with the skills and dedication to succeed, there are a number of worthwhile courses worldwide.
“The UTAS course has a very solid accreditation status with the Australian Medical Council (AMC),” explains Professor James Vickers, Head of the School of Medicine. “The distinguishing feature of the programme is the high level of commitment to clinical training by many health organisations and practitioners. The course also has one of the highest levels of clinical placements in Australia, and our graduates report a high level of preparedness for internships.” While the first year of the course introduces students to the foundations and themes of medicine, year two focusses on the fundamentals of clinical science, he says. Year three allows students to consolidate their knowledge and years four and five take place in one of the three UTAS teaching hospitals and concentrate on clinical practice. “Students also undertake placements in general practices across the state, as well as other health organisations,” he notes.
Common markets for the UTAS course include Malaysia and Singapore, which are also common student nationalities for medicine programmes at the University of Sydney, Australia. The programme moved from an undergraduate to graduate entry course in 1997, relates Beth Quinlivan at the institution, and the curriculum was renewed in 2007 to incorporate basic science and anatomy tuition.
“The anatomy section is extremely popular, especially with students who are interested in careers in surgery,” Quinlivan says. “One of the most popular options is a whole body dissection elective, where students spend eight weeks under the supervision of surgeons and surgical trainees.” While she explains that years one and two of the programme focus on areas such as mechanisms of health and disease in all major body systems and professionalism within a culturally diverse society, years three and four cover all aspects of clinical medicine including intensive care, emergency medicine and prenatal and women’s health. With courses also accredited by the AMC, there are factors which, she says, make the institution different. “We offer a strong focus on developing clinical skills, with students starting in a clinical situation in the first few weeks of the programme, an emphasis on research and an emphasis on international opportunities.”
At the University of Birmingham in the UK “the College of Medical and Dental Sciences focusses heavily on research activity, mainly biomedical research”, explains Claire Wicketts, adding the college receives UK£66 million (US$103 million) for research funding per year. “Some of our areas of strength include immunology, cancer, primary care and population sciences”. While programmes currently popular with overseas students include the Masters of Occupational Health, new programmes for 2013 include an MSc in Translational Medicine: Interdisciplinary Biomedical Technologies and an MRes in Cancer Sciences. “Each of the MSc programmes is offering bursaries to international students for 2013 entry with up to nine available worth UK£2,000 (US$3,106) each,” Wicketts adds.
With 5,000 international students from more than 150 countries, the University of Birmingham “provides unrivalled support for international students before and after they arrive”, Wicketts says. “This starts with a pre-departure briefing held in country for some of our key markets, and a free collection service from Birmingham International or London Heathrow airports on arrival.”
Chaminade University of Honolulu, USA, offers another form of support: pre-med courses for undergraduates who wish to gain a place at a graduate medical school. “Health profession advising services are available to any student interested in pursuing a career in the health professions, regardless of their undergraduate major,” advises Julia Myers at the university. “We provide academic guidance, resume-building opportunities and specialist events targeted to student interests such as guest speakers. Last year 80 per cent of our graduates that applied to medical schools were accepted,” she adds.
All contributors to this article cite the use of agents for overseas student recruitment purposes, with Myers explaining, “We are looking to expand our agent network through educational consultants with a good track record. We have visited Hong Kong, China, the Philippines and Norway to look to expand our connections.” A number of universities also send academic representatives to key countries in order to market courses, with Wicketts explaining that staff have recently visited countries such as Saudi Arabia, Malaysia and Nigeria to meet with hospitals and medicine-related research institutes. And at the University of Sydney, “A large number of students come to us through referrals from friends or their own research,” says Quinlivan.
The International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations (IFMSA)
Students enrolled on medical programmes overseas might want to consider getting involved with a national organisation that is a member of the International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations (IFMSA). Comprising 108 medical member associations in 103 countries, IFMSA’s aim is to “offer future physicians a comprehensive introduction to global health issues”, according to its mission statement. “Through our programming and opportunities, we develop culturally sensitive students of medicine, intent on influencing the transnational inequalities that shape the health of our planet.” Through IFMSA, around 10,000 medical students participate in international student medical exchanges, talks and debates. The association organises projects, programmes, seminars and workshops on areas such as medical education, reproductive health and human rights and peace.