The United Nations published a study in 2007, predicting that Africa’s population will reach 1.5 billion by the year 2030 – it will be as populous as today’s China and India together. While the continent’s infrastructure and economic development could be hastened by way of massive financial support from banks and other nations, as well as through private business ventures, the education of its people cannot be ‘bought’ with money – its development takes time, and can, at best, be ‘slightly accelerated’.
Considering that the health of ones people is the cornerstone of any country’s socio-economic development, Africa, and in particular Southern Africa, has an overwhelming task to accomplish in trying to keep up with its population’s health needs.
In 2006, there were 134 Medical Schools in Africa for a population of 905 million residents. If one subtracts the four top countries regarding Medical Schools – Algeria, Egypt, Sudan and South Africa – with a combined population of 190 million and 44 Medical Schools – a mere 90 Medical Schools have to cover a population of 715 million people. Also, most of the African Medical Schools, especially in Southern Africa, produce less than one hundred annual medical graduates, with the highest number of graduates usually being around 100 new physicians from a few select universities. However, experience and statistics have shown that up to 50% of newly graduated doctors will not pursue a medical career in their country, but rather go into business areas, or local or national politics; and of the remaining 50%, another large portion leaves their home country to work in Europe or the USA where they can find more and better professional possibilities to practice medicine associated with a much higher income.
Any country’s socio-economic development requires a base of a more or less well educated population that is healthy enough to work throughout its (work) productive years of life. Thus, to assure an appropriate level of general health of 1.5 billion people in just a little over 20 years, is a challenge that will have to be addressed immediately! The training of a general practitioner physician, after completing a primary and secondary education, still requires a minimum of four to six years of tertiary education in a combination of College/ University/Medical School, followed by a minimum of two to three years of practical training. Specialists for Internal Medicine, gynecologists, surgeons, pediatricians, or diagnostic specialists such as radiologists or pathologists require an additional two to three years of practical training. Thus, following secondary education, it takes a minimum of ten (10) to fourteen (14) years to ‘produce’ fully trained and functional physicians – to cover the health of 1.5 billion people in a little over 2o years.
Putting these numbers in perspective, children, who are currently enrolled in primary school, will have to have sufficient secondary and tertiary educational opportunities available, to become the first group of fully trained physicians, who will be available to provide the health needs for their country’s and continent’s population in the year 2030!
Furthermore, considering that most developed countries throughout the world are experiencing a slowly growing lack of sufficiently trained physicians, nurses and other medical personnel in their own cities – there will be no chance of ‘hiring’ sufficient numbers of foreign personnel in the year 2030 – regardless of the financial incentives.
Obviously, there is no time left to waste or to delay the absolutely necessary developmental planning of health education institutions, in as large a number as possible. It will also be necessary to create new, more efficient formats of health education or teaching schedules which will reduce the time that it takes to train a new physician, without reducing the quality and experience required to treat the graduate’s patients in a responsible and medically most advanced manner.
It is in this environment, that the Southern African Centre of Medical Education - SACME - has been founded - to create and develop a wide ranging new health care system. SACME will include medical schools for the training of future physicians, nursing schools to train future nurses, as well as training for medical technicians - for radiology to laboratory. The Centre will include training in Public Health issues and Traditional African Medicine.
SACME - School of Medicine is planned to be started in one of the SADC member countries, then expand to major cities in neighboring countries in the form of a novel 'franchise system' .
The concept of ‘The Southern African Centre of Medical Education – School of Medicine’ will not only be of dire need to the people of all of Southern Africa, it will also open the doors for economic success – for the countries which will embrace the concept, and for the founding and supporting institutions of the Southern African Centre of Medical Education.
The dawn of the African continent is imminent –
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