Realizing the Social Mission of Universities and training institutions
There are many stories of poorly planned health workforce programs in our countries. There are also many meeting taking place on health professionals education and training. at the same time, there are strikes and reported cases of suicide resulting from failure to get employed after graduation and completion of internship.
Here below are my thoughts on long term solutions. Looking forward to seeing your responses.
There is a lot of renewed activity in Africa and globally on the subject of health professionals’ education and training. A meeting took place at the beginning of February, 2023, in Kigali, Rwanda, of the Governing Council of the African Forum for Research and Education in Health (AFREhealth). In November, 2022, two meetings took place; in Miami, USA and in Accra Ghana on this topic. In May 2022, there was a Forum in Canada; McGill University School of Population and Global Health on “Nurturing Leadership for Health: are Universities Stepping Up?” Another meeting took place last week of February, 2023 in Pretoria, South Africa. So, what is going on? Are we making any progress? Are health professional training institutions contributing to better health globally, regionally and nationally? Are they just about themselves?
The Lancet Commission on the Education of Health Professionals for the 21st Century issued its report ten years ago recommending a new generation of reforms in health professionals’ education. Universities, especially university leaders, are called upon to become the change agents among the people that they serve. These leaders should demonstrate social accountability and teach their students to be societal change agents by exemplary lives; engaging with their ministers of health, cultural, religious and civil society leaders. The purpose of this engagement is to ensure that better population health is visible in practice as a result of teaching and research. Failure to achieve this qualifies universities to be described as ivory towers that are disconnected from their communities.
University leadership, including all Faculty should engage proactively with politicians and the public to ensure that knowledge, research and training are aligned with efforts to improve the performance of health systems and advocate and guide investments in health. This requires reviewing incentives for promotion of university lecturers that are currently skewed towards research and publications with insufficient emphasis on teaching and service. When students see this as a dominant role model, they also aspire to become researchers resulting in a gap in service and teaching.