Bottleneck in medical education

Bottleneck in medical education

One of the most significant outcomes from the reassignment of the Health Ministry’s top post has been the acceptance of the Full-Time Law, which was launched by the government in 2010, fully effective in 2011 and now needs a serious revision.

After Professor Recep Akdağ, architect of the Full-Time Law, was removed from the position of health minister last month, his replacement, Istanbul parliamentary deputy Professor Mehmet Müezzinoğlu, said in one of his first statements that he would endeavor to solve issues in the field by consulting with academia.

The flexibility the new Health Minister has demonstrated here is an expression of the level of seriousness this issue has reached; a threshold where the government cannot hold it up anymore.

One of the breaking points in this issue came when Istanbul University President Professor Yunus Söylet gave an interview last October to daily Akşam, where he said the alarm bells were ringing now so loudly that everybody could hear them.

“You cannot stereotype those people who possess critical expertise, who are hard to find and train,” Professor Söylet said, adding: “We have damaged the motivation of these people for four years because of so much vagueness. About 300 of these people have left Istanbul University. Some of them have taken unpaid leave and still keep their bond with us but they have been distanced from us. We have 270 people in this category. They are academics of 20, 30 years; they are people very hard to raise in this country… Hence, this fall in motivation causes further losses in motivation in those who remain. It has affected all of us. Their problem has turned into our problem. Most importantly, it has turned into a serious problem for medical students expecting training and those who are doing their internships.”

I spoke to President of Ankara University Professor Erkan İbiş yesterday and he also emphasized the motivation issue: “You should not regard the issue as limited to those who have left. Today those who are working in university hospitals are unhappy and hopeless. We have a serious motivation problem. Education is integrated; these problems academia is facing indeed affect our students. Everybody is in the same atmosphere.”

A nuclear medicine expert, Professor İbiş pointed out that the problems being experienced were issues that could actually be solved with very simple interventions. It has raised our hopes that the health minister’s statement demonstrates a search for a solution.

The common ground of the two presidents of Turkey’s biggest, most deeply-rooted universities is that the Full-Time Law has caused a serious motivation issue in medical schools. A pessimistic tone has fallen on medical schools in Turkey.

The Turkish Medical Association’s 2010 “Medical Education” report said the Cerrahpaşa and Çapa Medical schools of Istanbul University had 849 professors and 137 associate professors. They add up to 986. With 270 having left, we can conclude that one fourth of them departed.

There are also tragicomic situations due to restrictions imposed by the Health Ministry on academia with private practices to lecture in universities.

Medical education is based on a mentor system. It is a separate topic to write about the void left in the education of medical students with the departure of academics in certain expertise fields.

As a result, medical education in our country is not going well; it is losing stature. The bottleneck medical education is facing has become one of the most critical issues of Turkey and people living in this country.

Sedat Ergin is a columnist for daily Hürriyet in which this piece was published on Feb. 26. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.