Choosing a Medical School
With so many medical schools offering quality medical education, how you choose the right one? Professor Dr Mohd Azhar Mohd Noor, Principal lecturer in Obstetrics & Gynaecology, Dr Shaharuddin Datuk Aziz, Senior lecturer in Biochemistry, and Dr Nooriah Salleh, Principal lecturer in Public Health from University Kuala Lumpur Royal College of Medicine Perak give their advice.
Medicine is the branch of health science and the sector of public life concerned with maintaining or restoring human health through the study, diagnosis, treatment and possible prevention of disease and injury. It is both an area of knowledge – a science of body systems, their diseases and treatment – and an applied practice of that knowledge.
Medical education involves entry level education at a university medical school followed by a period of supervised practice as an intern (junior medical graduate) and possibly postgraduate training.
Aim and Objectives of Medical Schools
In general, the objective of the medical school is to produce doctors who are highly competent and compassionate practitioners of the medical arts, schooled in the current state of knowledge of both medical biology and patient care. It is hoped that graduates will establish a lifelong process of learning the medical, behavioural, and social sciences by independent study. The aim is to produce doctors who will be among the leaders in their chosen field, whether in the basic medical sciences, academic clinical medicine, or medical practice in the community.
What Makes a Medical School?
Several components make up a medical school.
Faculty/staff/lecturers – Most medical schools are leaders in their fields and they are committed to training medical leaders of tomorrow. They take a personal interest in their students and become mentors to many.
Learning opportunities and environment – Most medical schools provide a wealth of resources and opportunities. Medical schools that are affiliated to different healthcare settings will allow their students to experience a variety of healthcare settings, including private and public hospitals. Most medical schools attracts very bright students that bring with them a variety of educational experiences and diverse perspectives. Students of these medical schools not only serve to challenge each other intellectually, but also form a vital support system that creates a family atmosphere.
Course structure – Currently many medical schools around the world are moving from traditional teaching methods to a more integrated style of teaching. This course structure incorporates an interactive problem-based learning concept.
Lectures versus small group/Problem-based learning (PBL) – Most medical schools have something of a hybrid system. Some people work better on their own while others really need structure. Different setups work best for different people.
Clinical exposure – Different schools have different levels of clinical exposure in the first 2 years. We tend to think the more exposure the students get the better. The advantage is it keeps the students focused on why they are in medical school.
Making a Choice
Medical schools are very different in their philosophies, programmes of study and the type of students they attract. Selecting the ‘right’ medical school for you can be challenging. In choosing a medical school you want to strike a balance between the best schools and the schools you can get into.
When choosing a medical school, there are several factors to consider: The quality of the medical school, the learning opportunities and environments, and the staff (lecturers) and students, who will journey with you, are among the most important. Remember! The medical school you choose is a critical step in your journey to becoming a doctor.
To find out more about medical schools, the first step is to check the school’s website. It is very important that you counter check with the relevant government authorities (Ministry of Higher Education, Malaysian Service Department and Malaysian Medical Council) whether the medical schools are accredited. Also, it is important you consult independent medical school or college guide books and make formal visits to college campuses. You should also speak with practising doctors who are alumni of these medical schools.
Don’t forget to discuss your options with your parents and career guidance counsellors to get their perspectives. If you do all of this, you'll know what you're looking for in an education and will choose the school that is right for you.
Choosing a medical school is a serious decision as your decision will determine where you spend five years of your medical studies and lots of money. Therefore, do your research carefully.
Here are some questions to help you get started in your search for the right medical school:
- Do I like large classes or small ones?
- Am I interested in a career in research, clinical practice or in academic medicine? While every school offers opportunities to prepare for careers in all these areas, the variety of curricular experience varies from school to school. Try to select the school that fit best your career goals.
- Which schools have a learning approach that emphasises primary care, patient education, prevention, and preparation for community practice? What schools have a teaching approach that will work well for me?
- What kind of financial resources will I need to attend medical school? What are the costs?
- What types of financial aid are available at the schools I am considering?
- Are the schools in a location that meets my needs?
- Are the schools connected to a university or are they free-standing institutions?