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This Week's Article:

A Medical College's Push for Recognition
Taken from The Nation Newspaper www.thenationonlineng.net of 22/09/12

Despite its reputation, the National Postgraduate Medical College of Nigeria (NPMCN) is facing some challenges threatening its growth. But it is not losing hope for a better tomorrow report ADEGUNLE OLUGBAMILA and KOFOWOROLA BELO-OSAGIE both of The Nation Newspaper.

Its founders did not foresee the problems it is now facing. When the National Postgraduate Medical College of Nigeria (NPMCN) was formed 33 years ago, it was with high hopes of giving qualified medical doctors further training. It has been discharging this obligation diligently despite its challenges.

These challenges now seem to be getting to the institution, especially that of getting the National Universities Commission (NUC) to recognise its graduates, who are conferred with fellowships of the institution. The fellowship is supposed to be the equivalent of Ph.D

No matter, the institution is forging ahead. It is graduating 264 medical doctors who have spent a five years earning qualifications that will make them into specialists in different medical fields.

It will be a happy ceremony for the fellows and their families having passed the required three-stage examinations (Primary, Part I and Part II) to become specialists in the 15 faculties of the college including Anaesthesia, Dental Surgery, Family Medicine, Pathology, Obstetrics and Gynaecology, General Dental Practice, Opthalmology, Radiology, Orthopaedics, Surgery, Oto-Rhino-Laryngology, Public Health, Psychiatry and Internal Medicine.

Their qualifications and experience will earn them career progressions in the medical profession as they can aspire to become consultants.

The college’s leadership will also be celebrating its production of more than 4,000 fellows – 3,132 of them by examination. It has 3,801 candidates still seeking to attain this position after passing the examinations, which is evidence that its training is sought after by medical doctors

But, poor funding, inadequate infrastructure and recognition by some agencies like the NUC remain its headache and may make it difficult for the institution to effectively achieve its mission to “plan, implement, monitor and evaluate postgraduate programmes required to produce medical and dental specialists of the highest quality, competence and dedication, who will provide teaching and optimal healthcare for the people.”

Explaining how these factors are slowing down the college, its President, Prof Victor Wakwe said said despite its role of training and regulating highly-specialised medical personnel, it only depends on subventions from the Federal Ministry of Health, which are grossly inadequate to meet its needs for equipment, infrastructure and manpower.

It receives N2.5 million as overhead monthly, and the ministry foots the salary bill of its 116-strong workforce.

To be better positioned to carry out its statutory duties under Cap N59 Laws of the Federation, Wakwe is seeking that the college be recognised by the Federal Ministry of Education as a tertiary institution. That way, it will benefit from intervention grants from agencies like the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFUND), and NUC which it can dedicate to building infrastructure, conducting training and carrying out researches.

Lamenting the dearth of infrastructure and manpower, Wakwe said: “As at now we have a staff strength of about 116 carrying the load of work in the college. The number of candidates that puts in for our fellowship examinations are increasing tremendously. For the September to November 2012 examinations, we have 2,395 candidates for the Primary Examination; 1,118, Part I; and 288 for Part II.

“This is a big load for the college to carry judging that our infrastructure is very poor. We do not have an examination hall that can take up to 500 candidates presently. The second wing of the Learning Resources Building we were authorized to construct since 2010 is about 50 per cent completed.

“The money for the building comes in trickles. There are supposed to be four wings of this building. We moved to our present sight in 1997 which means this wing was completed by then. If it took 15 years to build half a wing of a building, how many years will it take to build the remaining two and a half wings? Something must be done and urgently too. We need help both from government and outsiders.”

Apart from the building, the college is in need of a Clinical skill and simulation laboratory valued at N500 million, used to examine patients and make diagnosis; e-library, equipment for all 15 faculties, among others.

Recognising that the funding it requires will not come with the present structure of operation, Wakwe said the college wrote to President Goodluck Jonathan through the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Anyim Pius Anyim seeking audience with the Ministry of Education; Ministry of Health, and Ministry of Science and Technology; on collaborative funding of the college. However, he said they got no response to date.

“We need a lot of help to improve our infrastructure and purchase equipment for our college activities. We want the Federal Ministry of Education to recognise us as a tertiary education institution and request the TETFUND to give us a grant to build an examination/multipurpose hall that will take 1,500 candidates.

Also, the ministry should request NUC to give us grants to improve our research capabilities. There are monies they are they are begging the universities to come and collect,” he said.

Another touchy issue Wakwe said the College has to deal with is the non-recognition of its fellows that do not have PhDs.

Wakwe lamented that the rise of such fellows to professorship is being stunted because their universities insist on Ph.Ds based on the directive of the NUC that it should be the minimum qualification for lecturers in the system since 2008.

But Wakwe said the following the NUC’s instruction, the college advised the agency against such measure on the basis that its fellowship is deeper and richer in content than a PhD.

“NUC called a meeting with us in 2006 in which we reached a compromise; but it was not until this year NUC sent out a letter on July 24 that they agreed to our position, but the letter was badly worded because it stated inter alia that ‘in the interim’ our Fellowship is acceptable until NUC introduces a Ph.D programme.”

Prof Wakwe added: “We don’t object their introducing the programme.

“Our advise is that they should allow academic clinical lecturers who are voracious for knowledge to take up these degrees voluntarily as some of us have done. There are clinical lecturers in this country who have the fellowship plus masters or PhD certificates. They did it on their own without coercion.

The information for the NUC is that any postgraduate medical programme it has drawn without the approval of the Postgraduate Medical College of Nigeria will be disaccredited.”

One of such is Prof Tolu Odugbemi, Vice-Chancellor of the Ondo State University of Science and Technology (OSUSTECH), Okitipupa. In an interview with The Nation, he said the professional training provided by the various fellowships earn medical doctors requisite recognition in the workplace. He said academics need only to add publications to these fellowships to earn promotions, even professorship.

“In medical circles, you can go into professional training by doing the various fellowships and you will be recognized by the hospitals and ministries. If you are an academic, once you have the fellowship, you just need to produce publications and you can become anything. I have always supported the idea that once you have a fellowship and publications, you can become a professor. That is why people who are not in medicine should not dabble into how much people can write. But there are some of us that just like acquiring degrees to keep us busy. I am a fellow of the postgraduate Medical College and I also have a PhD,” he said.

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