For Immediate Release: 05 December 2010
OUM Achieves Accreditation: Becomes South Pacific's First Internationally-Accredited Medical School
Oceania University of Medicine has been granted formal accreditation by the board of directors of the Philippine Accrediting Association of Schools, Colleges and Universities (PAASCU) at its November 26, 2010, meeting. This achievement gives OUM the distinction of being the first and only internationally-accredited medical school in the South Pacific.
“It is very gratifying to see that all our hard work and determination to create a high-quality medical education in conjunction with the forward-thinking Government of Samoa has resulted in our accreditation,” said Taffy Gould, Chair of the OUM Council and founder of the University.
“This is a significant milestone in OUM’s short eight-year history,” said Professor Surindar Cheema, OUM’s Vice Chancellor. “We must continue to work hard to help OUM meet the needs of our students and to address physician workforce shortages of Samoa, the South Pacific, Australia, and North America.”
A final site visit in late October by the five-member accreditation team to OUM’s campus in Apia, Samoa and with alumni and students in Australia and New Zealand culminated three years of self-study and 10 months addressing recommendations made following a 2009 preliminary site visit to the campus and to clinical sites in North America.
“The site reviewers were impressed with the progress made since the 2009 visit and the enthusiasm with which their recommendations were met,” said Concepcion Pijano, PAASCU’s Executive Director. “We look forward to working with the students, faculty, and administration on subsequent re-accreditation visits.”
13,913 Miles, 974 Pages, and Numerous Interviews
The team of reviewers—deans, faculty, and administrators of medical schools in the Philippines—traveled 13,913 miles and pored through 974 pages of documentation that detailed the University’s policies, procedures, and programs in eight areas: faculty, curriculum & instruction, clinical facilities, research, students, library, administration, and facilities and other resources. Site visitors met with students, alumni, faculty, and administrators responsible for those areas to confirm their effectiveness and to verify student satisfaction.
Recommendations that were addressed from the preliminary round included introducing academic advisors and peer mentors for students, professional development programs for faculty and staff, expanding the research program including hosting medical conferences and publication of the Samoa Medical Journal, and improving facilities on campus including the library, computer labs, classrooms, and student lounges.
PAASCU has four levels of accreditation. The University will be evaluated for re-accreditation in three years to achieve the second level, which will be effective for a further period of five years. The third level emphasizes high standards in instruction and visible community service as well as strong traditions in research, faculty development, high performance of graduates, linkages with other schools, and/or extensive learning resources. The fourth and highest level of accreditation recognizes substantial, excellent outcomes in all areas.
Benefits of Accreditation
In addition to being able to call itself the first internationally-accredited medical school in the South Pacific, accreditation makes OUM eligible to compete for education and research grants from international organizations. In addition, philanthropic foundations offering student scholarships frequently require recipients to attend an accredited institution.
For students and faculty, accreditation demonstrates that OUM has met rigorous international standards, providing confidence that OUM is comparable to well-established medical schools.
In the United States, accreditation is a requirement for licensure in some states and for many bank-offered student loans. It also is the first step in a process by the U.S. Department of Education to qualify students for government-backed student loans. PAASCU is one of 20 accrediting bodies recognized by the U.S. National Committee on Foreign Medical Education and Accreditation (NCFMEA), which reviews standards used by foreign countries to accredit medical schools and determines whether those standards are comparable to those used to accredit medical schools in the United States. Now having met the first requirement, OUM must apply to one of several states and clear additional hurdles before it can provide Federal loan eligibility to its students.
Founded in 1957, PAASCU is a service organization that accredits academic programs to meet standards of quality education. Since 1991, PAASCU has been a full member of the International Network for Quality Assurance Agencies in Higher Education, which is composed of 200 accrediting agencies in more than 90 different countries. PAASCU also is a founding member of the Asia-Pacific Quality Network. PAASCU has linkages with the Council for Higher Education Accreditation, which is a private, nonprofit national organization that coordinates accreditation activity in the United States, as well as with the NCFMEA, which is based in Washington, D.C. For more information, visit www.paascu.org.ph.
Located on the grounds of the National Hospital Complex in Apia, Samoa, Oceania University of Medicine, which offers MD and MBBS degrees to its graduates, has a current student body of approximately 125 from five countries. Graduates are receiving their post-graduate residency and internship specialty training at teaching hospitals in Australia, Samoa, and the United States. 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. For more information about OUM, visit www.oceaniamed.org.
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