World's first virtual medical school edges closer

An ambitious Dundee-led project to establish the world's first international virtual medical school (IVIMEDS) takes a significant step closer to reality this week (13-14 June) when representatives of over 50 medical institutes from Australia to the USA gather to firm up their plans.

It is the first time so many of the world's leading health educators have collaborated in such a venture and its success in reaching this stage is due in some part to the international reputation of Professor Ronald Harden, director of the University's centre for medical education who has been a key initiator.

The impressive list of collaborators includes Harvard Medical International, Mayo Clinic Medical School, Miami medical schools and other universities in the USA and Canada, universities in Europe, Singapore, Hong Kong, Germany, New Zealand, Australia, South America, Bahrain and the UK including Scotland's five medical schools as well as the new NHS university and E-learning representatives.

By pooling their specialist knowledge and coupling it with the opportunities afforded by new technology, the collaborators aim to provide tomorrow's health professionals with access to the best of international expertise across the range of specialisms wherever and whenever they choose to train.

Discussions between the collaborators have so-far largely been web-based but over the two days of meetings and workshops, based at the St Andrews Bay Hotel, the 100 delegates hope to lay the foundations for a future medical school capable of keeping tomorrow's doctors abreast of treatments and technologies which continue to develop at a breathless pace.

Principal Sir Alan Langlands will deliver the opening address highlighting the aims of the meeting followed by Professor Ian Hart from Ottawa on the value of IVIMEDS and Professor Harden on how it might be implemented. Sessions on assessment will be delivered by The National Board of Medical Examiners and on a business plan by Don Clark, CEO of The Epic Group plc. Epic is a large e-learning company, which for nearly 20 years has produced a wide range of interactive learning solutions for both the training and education sectors.

Discussion groups will then tackle a range of key aspects before meeting the following day under the chairmanship of Sir Alan for further sessions on e-learning by a range of specialists including Professor Sir Alfred Cuschieri who will talk about simulation, Graham Buckley from NHS Education for Scotland, Tom Little of the E-University, and Professor Margaret Alexander who will address nursing and IVIMEDS.

The international meeting of collaborators concludes a feasibility study into the establishment of the virtual medical school funded by the Scottish Higher Education Funding Council, Scottish Knowledge, Scottish Enterprise and NHS Education for Scotland.

The delegates, who will fly in to Edinburgh, Glasgow and Dundee airports, will not go home without some experience of Scotland beyond the workshop. On Thursday evening they will attend a banquet at Glamis Castle.

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