As I look across the medical schools involved in the Medical Education Partnership Initiative, it’s interesting to note the different types of ‘partnerships’ that have been stimulated by this investment. As the landscape of medical education evolves to meet the global health workforce crisis, these diverse partnerships should be examined for creative and effective ways to sustain and strengthen health professions education. Medical schools in Africa are partnering with:
1. In-country medical schools – while African schools often turn to schools in the west for technical expertise, they are increasingly looking at each other for creative partnerships that enable efficient use of limited resources and provide a common platform for national and even international advocacy.
2. Ministries of Health and Education – historically, academic institutions have had limited influence on health workforce in Africa, but this gap seems to be getting smaller as academics are now building bridges with politicians. In Uganda, the medical schools have formed a new national body that brings together all the schools along with the government ministries involved in health policy. In many countries the Ministry of Education determines who gets into medical school and the Ministry of Health looks to employ the graduates of medical schools. So these government ministries book-end the pipeline of physician training, making this connection between academics and policy-makers a mutually important relationship.
3. Research institutions – one of the core themes in MEPI is to build local capacity to conduct locally-relevant research. Here again, while the traditional partnerships for research have been north-south, we are now seeing medical schools in Africa are looking at the rich resources in their immediate environment. The University of Zambia early on identified local research partners that provide a cost-effective, locally-relevant way of supporting research capacity-building in an African context.