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 Table of Contents  
Year : 2019  |  Volume : 11  |  Issue : 4  |  Page : 135-137

Implication of the 2023 education commission for foreign medical graduates policy changes for medical education in developing countries

1 Department of Surgery, Division of Transplantation Surgery, The Ohio State University; Wexner Medical Center, Comprehensive Transplant Center, Columbus, Ohio, USA
2 Department of Diabetes and Endocrinology, Mediclinic Airport Road, Abu Dhabi; Department of Medicine, Dubai Medical College, Dubai, UAE
3 Department of Medicine, Dubai Medical College; Dubai Diabetes Center, Dubai Health Authority, Dubai, UAE

Date of Web Publication30-Dec-2019

Correspondence Address:
Elmahdi A Elkhammas
Wexner Medical Center, Comprehensive Transplant Center, Columbus, Ohio
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/ijmbs.ijmbs_71_19

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How to cite this article:
Elkhammas EA, Beshyah SA, Abdelmannan DK. Implication of the 2023 education commission for foreign medical graduates policy changes for medical education in developing countries. Ibnosina J Med Biomed Sci 2019;11:135-7

How to cite this URL:
Elkhammas EA, Beshyah SA, Abdelmannan DK. Implication of the 2023 education commission for foreign medical graduates policy changes for medical education in developing countries. Ibnosina J Med Biomed Sci [serial online] 2019 [cited 2021 Dec 1];11:135-7. Available from: http://www.ijmbs.org/text.asp?2019/11/4/135/274315

The accreditation of medical education, i.e., the certification of the suitability of medical education programs, and of the competence of medical schools in the delivery of medical education, ensures patient safety and competent practicing doctors. Medical knowledge advances at a very rapid speed. The international medical education systems' changing rate was unable to cope with such rapid advances. Every human is a stakeholder in this issue and prefer to remain healthy and productive, as patients prefer to have a high degree of safety and care by qualified physicians. Naturally, the financiers of health care and insurance companies as well as others are interested in such outcomes. All stakeholders like to see more countries being accountable in having internationally recognized medical schools and graduate safe physicians. Of course, this is an ideal target that will require major resources and international cooperation to achieve some steps. In the United States alone, approximately 25% of the working physicians and residents are international graduates.[1]

With the increased level of globalization and open healthcare market, many international medical graduates (IMGs) seek specialization training and work opportunities abroad. The United States residency market is a very popular goal for many of them and is known to employ the largest number of emigrating physicians.[2] Probably, stability, the internationally-recognized accreditation and the opportunities for highly advanced subspecialty training are among the reasons for seeking this market.

The Education Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG) has been the gatekeeper to protect the American public and assure the quality of the international physicians seeking to train and work in the American health sector.[2] Over time, the ECFMG and the international community felt the gap and recognized the wide variation in the quantity and quality of medical education and its outcome. This stimulated the discussion about streamlining medical education internationally to have similar outcome of competent doctors. In 2010, the ECFMG decided that IMGs have to come from medical schools that are accredited by the World Federation of Medical Education (WFME). The board decided that 2023 is the year of complete implementation of the new policy and new accreditation requirements for medical schools to get their graduates accepted for training in the USA.[3],[4]

For decades, the ECFMG has relied on individual certification as long as the graduate came from a medical school that has been included in the WHO directory of medical schools. Accreditation of medical education is normally carried out by national governments, or by agencies receiving their authority from national governments in accordance to the standards set by the WFME. That is not any longer adequate after 2023. The medical schools themselves have to be accredited. Of course, there is no single international agency that is capable of accrediting every medical school in the world. The WFME has developed minimal criteria as standard guidelines for an acceptable medical school with acceptable outcome.[4] The WFME prepared a document with the essential knowledge to graduate a safe physician. The document included nine areas of needed reforms and focus. The following are the areas as posted in the WFME website: mission and outcomes, educational program, assessment of students, students, academic staff/faculty, educational resources, program evaluation, governance and administration, and lastly continuous renewal. Each area has several subheadings to strive for quality. All these areas need a lot of reviewing and quality improvements over a long period of time. All medical schools which seek accreditation will undergo self-assessment, internal and external evaluation, and reforms to comply with the WFME and ECFMG guidelines. The ECFMG has published the phases of implementation plan for the new policy.[5]

The implementation phases are described in [Table 1]. This requires that each country has to create or contract with an accreditation body responsible and capable of accrediting such vital educational institutions. Such authoritative body has to meet certain criteria and follow specific procedures and policies to be accredited by the WFME. It is vital to have honest, credible local accreditation bodies to help streamline the entire process to get a reasonable, homogenous outcome of competent doctors. Tackett has reported that by December 2018, only 14 accrediting bodies have been certified.[3],[6] Many countries remained behind in creating the authoritative body. At this rate, it may result in major delays of accrediting many countries, especially in Africa. So far, Sudan is the only African country that has been accredited as far as I know now. Dauphinee commented on Tackett's article and concerns and proposed three different options that ECFMG may use to assure quality of care.[7] The delays in the creation of the required accrediting bodies can be attributed to several factors. Many of these countries can be going through hardship, administrative limitations, and even armed conflicts. On the other hand, some governments may not view this accreditation as a matter of national priority. They may even see it as a blessing in disguise, helping them to reduce brain drain by doctors emigrating from home countries.[8],[9]
Table 1: The road map and its time scale as set by the Education Commission for Foreign Medical Graduate[5]

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Developing countries vary widely in the practices of accreditation of all main degrees granted by medical schools. For instance, in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), all UAE medical MBBCh programs are currently accredited by the Commission for Academic Accreditation (CAA) under the Ministry of Education.[10] Indeed, all granted university degrees are meticulously stored in the ministry's database. The authors are aware that CAA is undertaking the necessary steps to meet the 2023 ECFMG requirements for all UAE medical schools. We have been informed that work by the medical schools in Bahrain and Oman is in progress. However, this may not be readily available in many countries in Asia and Africa. For instance, Libya, as an example from Africa, is a country of 6 million people with 15 medical schools, two of which are not functional currently.[5] In fact, only 11 Libyan medical schools are on the WHO list. Thus, there is one medical school for every 400,000 people. This is at a much higher rate than what has been published.[11] It is very difficult to gather credible data about the quality of education in all these schools.[6],[12] The medical graduates exceed the capabilities of the local employment market. Over the years, a fair number of them have traveled abroad for advanced training and some remained for practice. There are no clear policies regarding the quality improvements or accountability of graduates' outcome. Considering that 2023 is around the corner and no evidence of major reforms and auditing, it is very concerning that some of these colleges may not meet the needed standard criteria. Until recently, there was no accreditation authority. However, in 2019, the government launched the National Center for Accreditation of Medical Institutions (personal communication). Most of the developing countries are in a similar situation. Add to these challenges, the need to appoint qualified people to fulfill the duty-free of any political or corruption issues. Such individuals can guide medical schools through self-evaluation as well as site visits and accreditation process.

The process of creating accreditation bodies is very slow and full of obstacles. Once that hurdle is overcome, it takes approximately 2 years to complete the accreditation application with the WFME. The above challenges paint a relatively gloomy and critical situation of medical education in many developing countries.

How the WFME can police such a process will be very challenging.[3] The training of new accreditation bodies is essential, which should be done through a rigorous curriculum to assure honesty and effectiveness. The new policy will have a major impact on many countries and certainly will be very challenging for the WFME as well as international medical colleges and their graduates.

In conclusion, the year 2023 is around the corner. It is the responsibility of the medical colleges as well as their countries to take the situation seriously and invest in the reforms. Major resources are needed for the completion of the process before 2021 to give time to correct deficiencies and follow-up site visits. The resources are needed now. Meeting the new requirements by 2023 by the colleges worldwide is not only to get the accreditation by the WFME and ECFMG, but it should also be viewed as a golden opportunity to enable them to graduate qualified physicians and to provide quality care for their own citizens.

Authors' contributions

All three authors developed the concept, drafted and approved the final version of the manuscript.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

Compliance with ethical principles

Not Applicable.

  References Top

Ranasinghe PD. International medical graduates in the US physician workforce. J Am Osteopath Assoc 2015;115:236-41.  Back to cited text no. 1
Gary NE, Sabo MM, Shafron ML, Wald MK, Ben-David MF, Kelly WC. Graduates of foreign medical schools: progression to certification by the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates. Acad Med 1997;72:17-22.  Back to cited text no. 2
Tackett S. Examining the educational commission for foreign medical graduates announcement requiring medical school accreditation beginning in 2023. Acad Med 2019;94:943-9.  Back to cited text no. 3
World Federation for Medical Education. Standard Criteria. Available from: https://wfme.org/standards/. [Las accessed on 2019 Nov 16].  Back to cited text no. 4
2023 Medical School Accreditation Requirement. Available from: https://www.ecfmg.org/accreditation/implementation-plan.html. [Last accessed on 2019 Nov 17].  Back to cited text no. 5
Ministry of Health Information and Documentation Center. The Libyan Health System: Study of Medical and Allied Health Education and Training Institutions. Libya: Ministry of Health Information and Documentation Center; 2018. p. 1-143. Available from: http://seha.ly/en/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/Study-of-Medical-and-Allied-Health-Institutes-of-Libya.pdf. [Last accessed on 2019 Nov 17].  Back to cited text no. 6
Dauphinee WD. A further examination of previous and future policy opportunities of the educational commission for foreign medical graduates. Acad Med 2019;94:934-6.  Back to cited text no. 7
Mills EJ, Kanters S, Hagopian A, Bansback N, Nachega J, Alberton M, et al. The financial cost of doctors emigrating from sub-Saharan Africa: Human capital analysis. BMJ 2011;343:d7031.  Back to cited text no. 8
Kirigia JM, Gbary AR, Muthuri LK, Nyoni J, Seddoh A. The cost of health professionals' brain drain in Kenya. BMC Health Serv Res 2006;6:89.  Back to cited text no. 9
Commission for Academic Accreditation. Procedural Guidelines for Renewal of Accreditation Commission for Academic Accreditation; 2011. Available from: https://www.caa.ae/caa/images/Guide-RA.pdf. [Last accessed on 2019 Nov 24].  Back to cited text no. 10
Boulet J, Bede C, McKinley D, Norcini J. An overview of the world's medical schools. Med Teach 2007;29:20-6.  Back to cited text no. 11
Al-Areibi A. Medical education in Libya: Challenges, hopes, and recommendations. Libyan Int Medical Univ J 2019;4:1-7.  Back to cited text no. 12


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