Frequently Asked Questions
Many of OUM’s administrators, faculty and staff are also parents, so your concern is understood. There are generally no safety concerns on-campus or off—Samoa is a safe and peaceful country. Because the medical school is on the National Health Complex grounds, it must follow the same regulations: Gates are locked to cars at 6 pm, all guests should be off campus by 8 pm, and there are after-hours security guards, 6 pm to 6 am, 365 days a year. There is also no smoking within the grounds and noise must be controlled after hours. OUM student ID cards will be used to create an official register lodged with authorities such as campus security, police, the ministry of education, and hospitals.
Students will be provided with an OUM staff member’s emergency mobile number that they can call 24/7, providing students and parents assurance that the University will respond quickly to any problem. The on-call staff member will respond promptly in the event of an unlikely crisis and alert other senior administrators, as needed. The school will do everything in its power to assist the student with his/her crisis and contact parents, if necessary. If it is a health related matter, the University will ensure that the student gets the best health care possible at the national hospital adjacent to OUM, or if necessary, organise the student’s emergency transfer to Australia, New Zealand or to his/her home country for further treatment.
The University has a full-time Student Welfare Officer whose role is to look after the well-being of our students. Physician mentors assigned in the second year on campus, who work with students throughout their years of preclinical study, also monitor student stress and well-being for the University. In addition, students are assigned to study groups. Belonging to a study group provides peer support and, if necessary, help from the Team Leader/physician. Furthermore, OUM will arrange counselling services when needed. OUM is committed to looking after the welfare of its students, from the moment a staff member picks them up at the airport when they arrive in Samoa, until the day they graduate.
New students participate in an extensive orientation the week before classes begin. Orientation Week activities are designed to help students settle into their new country of residence, their housing, and the OUM campus. Students have this transition period to meet classmates and acclimate to the weather and new culture. OUM helps by orienting students to key island locations (food, entertainment, social) and government services (police, health, emergency services). Students are taken on several tours, one to supermarkets and fresh seafood/vegetable/fruit markets; another to the numerous rural clinics and smaller hospitals within the Samoan health system where students will learn, do research, and eventually treat patients. The school will set up active student body representation within the first two weeks of the program so that the students can express their views on a number of University committees.
Absolutely. Samoa is a preferred tourist destination for Australians, New Zealanders, Americans, and Europeans. There is a six week break between semesters where students are not required to be at the University unless they are undertaking a catch-up class or studying for one of the major exams. This is a perfect opportunity to visit your child, as well as to take a holiday. While parents and friends are not allowed to stay in student-shared accommodations, there are many international hotels located in Apia and the University maintains a list of recommended accommodation options to suit a variety of budgets. Pacific Blue and Air New Zealand run flights to Samoa for Australian and New Zealand residents via Sydney and Auckland. Remember, however, that our students have demanding schedules so plan your visit near holidays or breaks.
Each year, students may begin OUM's five-year MBBS program in February. The 2012 intake begins in March.
The five-year undergraduate medical program is directed at secondary school or high school leavers in the Pacific and Australasian region.* This residential program is similar to undergraduate MBBS courses in Malaysia, Australia, Fiji and India. Students are required to live in Samoa and attend classes at the OUM campus located in the city of Apia.
Problem-based learning -- the cornerstone of medical education programs worldwide – is also the foundation of OUM’s innovative integrated curriculum. Basic science education in Years 1-3 is supplemented by early exposure to patients and clinical principles at Tupua Tamasese Meaole (TTM) Hospital, OUM’s primary teaching facility. The program places great emphasis on understanding clinical diagnostic and therapeutic approaches while also highlighting the basic science mechanisms and principles that underpin disease pathology.
An important component of the curriculum is the incorporation of integrative themes throughout Years 1-5. Two lectures per week are dedicated to the themes Medical Theory, Medical Skills, Personal & Professional Development, and Health & Society. OUM’s curriculum has a strong focus on community-based education. Students are expected to conduct community research projects throughout the program and undertake rural and community medicine clinical rotations during Years 4 and 5.
(*A college degree is required of licensed physicians in North America, so US and Canadian residents are directed to OUM’s graduate-entry program.)
OUM does not give credit to students for subjects completed at another medical school. Be careful about schools that offer advanced standing. Many licensing boards have specific attendance requirements and don’t look favorably upon attempts to cut corners on medical training.
Once a student passes the Final Preclinical Exam at the end of Year 3, he/she will be eligible to enter 72 weeks of clinical rotations (Year 4 and 5). Core clinical rotations cover 56 weeks (Internal Medicine - 12 weeks, Surgery - 12 weeks, Paediatrics – 8 weeks, Obstetrics & Gynaecology – 8 weeks, Psychiatry – 4 weeks, Emergency Medicine – 4 weeks, Community Medicine – 8 weeks), followed by 16 weeks of compulsory Clinical Selective Modules (Neurology, Orthopaedics, Rural Placement) and advanced medical/surgical/general electives (student choice).
At the onset of each rotation, students are assigned to a clinical supervisor at the OUM teaching hospital (Tupua Tamasese Meaole Hospital -TTM). During rotations, students will dedicate 50 hours each week to hospital-based patient care training, including attending seminars and on-line lectures. Together with the hands-on training, students will complete five PBL cases, directed learning activities, and supportive lectures associated with the clerkship (five cases for eight-week core rotations; less for four-week core rotations). This portion of the clinical curriculum is designed to both highlight important learning objectives and complement the practical knowledge from rotations. At the completion of each core rotation, students will be evaluated using a variety of assessment tools including a clinical knowledge exam, clinical skills assessment and supervisor evaluation. Students have to complete a daily log book that they submit at the end of each rotation.
A physician mentor is each student’s guide and coach to the practice of medicine. Students meet with their mentors for at least one hour each week to discuss studies and other medical practice issues. He/She is the student’s sounding board with regards to medical issues. Students may even have an opportunity to tag along on rounds or to shadow the doctor as he or she sees patients, dependent upon patient approval. The key is to experience the life of a community physician, as well as to have a clinical role model throughout preclinical and clinical studies. The University assigns each student a physician mentor early during his/her second year and that individual remains the student’s mentor through the entirety of the five-year program.
Students will do some cadaver study when they participate in autopsies with a supervising pathologist. OUM also uses other instructional modes to teach anatomy and laboratory sciences. Many medical schools are moving away from cadaver laboratory work toward high-quality electronic teaching material. Numerous medical school accrediting bodies now acknowledge that laboratory exercises may be "real or simulated." There are several computer models today that accurately simulate the body, often with better views than you would see in an anatomy class. The US National Institutes of Health developed many models that are used in medical education. As a supplemental resource, there is a small anatomy museum on campus that contains normal and pathological anatomical specimens. Students are required to spend some time at the museum during the foundation anatomy module and throughout the system based modules in Years 2 and 3.
In addition to gross anatomy, a good portion of laboratory work involves acquiring skills to collect and analyze raw data from graphs, blood work, and other pathological results. To develop these skills, OUM students are required to attend laboratory sessions (two hours/week) during the first three years (Foundation and Preclinical Phases). Students will also be asked to interpret laboratory style MCQs and are given mini-assignments. While most assignments test physiological theory, others explore interpretation of clinical concepts in order to build and strengthen diagnostic skills.
Because OUM has significantly reduced its tuition fees, scholarships and loans from the University are not available. The University will work with private scholarship and lending sources to assist students finding their own funding. To ease the burden of tuition payments, OUM has created payment plans. See the Financial Aid page for more details.
OUM staff has a student accommodation booklet available which contains up-to-date information on hotel/motel options, and websites to assist students who would prefer to live in a flat/apartment. A good two bedroom flat in Samoa normally costs SAT$1200-$1500 per month. It is recommended that students arrive approximately two weeks before classes begin to properly settle into their housing and to experience Samoan culture before the semester starts. There is no cafeteria, so students should budget time and finances for their personal food shopping and meal preparation. Students have daily access to a campus kitchen where they can prepare meals. During Orientation Week tour, students will be shown the supermarkets, food stores and local outdoor markets that supply fresh seafood, fruit, and vegetables.
All major health services are available in Samoa, including hospitals, clinics, dentistry, physiotherapy, pharmacy, and nurse practitioners. The OUM campus is located on the grounds of the National Health Complex with Tupua Tamasese Meaole (TTM) Hospital, the primary Samoan medical facility and OUM’s dedicated teaching hospital. In addition to TTM, there are a number of smaller private and government hospitals located on both islands. During Orientation Week, students will tour all of Samoa’s health facilities.
OUM does not provide health insurance, but requires students traveling to Samoa to obtain an appropriate international health insurance policy in their country of residence. Upon acceptance, students traveling to the campus must provide proof of health insurance coverage with international benefits. It is also advisable to obtain evacuation insurance in case of an extreme medical emergency. Evacuees typically are taken to New Zealand as it is the closest country with specialty/trauma units.
Students are, however, covered by OUMís professional indemnity insurance for their patient interaction activities. Students will also perform minor procedures under strict supervision during their clinical rotations in Years 4 and 5.
Yes. Samoa has a severe shortage of doctors, so interns will play a critical role in its healthcare system. Internship places will be available for international students who wish to complete their training year in Samoa and the government may provide a living stipend. As a condition of the internship year, graduates would be required to rotate through rural health clinics and district hospitals on the islands of Upolu and Savaii.
OUM graduates are required to register with the Samoan Medical Council before obtaining a provisional license to practise medicine in Samoa. Students wishing to enter a residency program in Samoa are required to register their intentions with the University at the beginning of the program.
OUM has several alumni in post-graduate training programs; internships in Australia and residencies in the US. Medical councils and regulatory bodies in all countries have regulations controlling the licensing of foreign-trained physicians. In most cases, graduates are required to sit special licensing exams to qualify for registration. All prospective students are strongly advised to contact the medical board in the country/state/territory where they intend to practise upon graduation to learn the necessary licensing requirements.
The Australian Medical Council (AMC) administers national examinations for overseas-trained physicians who want to practise in the country. OUM graduates are eligible to take the AMC exams because the school is listed in both the World Health Organization's (WHO) World Directory of Medical Schools and the International Medical Education Directory (IMED) published by the Foundation for Advancement of International Medical Education and Research. Upon finishing their studies, OUM graduates wishing to practise medicine in Australia must contact the AMC and register to sit its two-part examination. After successful completion of the AMC examinations, a one-year supervised internship program must also be completed before being allowed to apply for state registration and a residency-training program. For more information, visit the AMC website www.amc.org.au.
Registration with the Malaysian Medical Council (MMC) is a prerequisite for medical practise and housemanship/internship training, especially for Malaysians studying overseas. OUM graduates wishing to practise in Malaysia will be required to pass the MMC Medical Qualifying Examination before they can apply for provisional registration and internship positions. Two-year internships are available at 32 MMC recognised teaching hospitals and physicians are required to complete an additional three years of “compulsory government service” before they can enter private practice. Because there are specific citizenship requirements, students planning to practice in Malaysia should contact the MMC (www.mmc.gov) for detailed information.
In India, OUM graduates are required to sit for the Medical Council of India (MCI) screening exams before they can apply for conditional provisional registration and internship positions. As part of the registration process, there is also a requirement to submit an eligibility certificate that is granted before the students begin their MBBS program with the University. Students interested in practising in India upon graduation should do an extensive review of the MCI website at www.mciindia.org.
Samoa has broadband and most Samoans have mobile phones. Making international calls is cheaper by mobile phone, especially during evenings. Digicel mobile phones charge about 85 sene per minute for calls to Australia and New Zealand and GoMobile charges about 50 sene per minute during off-peak hours. SMS messaging is even cheaper. It may be possible to have internet connected at student housing with the access and expense to be shared among housemates. This could provide students with email and voice programs (i.e. Skype) to use for personal and family communications, since voice program use is prohibited on campus for non-academic purposes.
Outside of their academic commitments, students have an opportunity to engage in a variety of extracurricular activities that include:
- Sightseeing - Samoa’s two main islands (Upolu and Savaii) have an abundance of interesting sightseeing destinations including traditional architecture, cultural displays and museums, beautiful and secluded beaches, marine reserves, spectacular blowholes, volcanic terrain on Savaii, and lush rainforests.
- Snorkelling, diving, sailing, fishing, hiking, kayaking & canoeing, swimming, surfing, hiking, whale watching.
- Movie cinema - Located in downtown Apia shows international movies.
- Local markets selling traditional ware, fruit and vegetables, and a range of seafood.
- Sporting activities including tennis, golf, soccer, and swimming.
- Traditional singing and dancing events can be found all year round in Samoa. Fia Fia (or Fire Dance) Night is a popular custom involving traditional dance, costume, singing, and music.
- Nightlife - There are a number of nightclubs and bars in Apia.
- Restaurants - There are a number of excellent local and international restaurants located in Apia and surrounding suburbs.
- Churches & Religious activities - There are about ten different religious denominations located in and around Apia.
The school was founded in 2002, in close collaboration with the Samoan government, so its future is secure. The school began with the establishment of a graduate-entry MD/MBBS program which at the end of 2011 had approximately 140 students worldwide. OUM introduced its five-year Undergraduate MBBS Program in 2010. OUM is selective about the students it accepts, making certain they have the self-motivation and discipline necessary to complete the course.
OUM has produced 32 graduates. Those physicians are currently completing residency training or already practicing in their home countries of Australia, New Zealand, Samoa, and the US. Several additional students will graduate in 2012 and begin postgraduate training.