Dr Hani Abdeen BM FRCP (UK) FCCP – Dean of Al Quds University Medical School – writing about recognition of Al Quds Medical School
“Soon after the first cohort of doctors graduated from Al Quds Medical School (AQMS) in 2001, the issue of international accreditation of the MD degree became contentious. For any medical school to have its undergraduate programme accredited, it needs to be registered on the WHO World Registry of Medical Schools. This requires the country to be independent, sovereign and a permanent member of the United Nations Assembly. The lack of accreditation would make it even more difficult for AQMS graduates to further their postgraduate training abroad. In 2002, following intensive lobbying and submission of necessary documentation, the General Medical Council in London granted AQMS recognition and this was followed by the ECFMG in the US and other European bodies.
However, despite AQMS graduates having high success rate in passing international medical examinations such as the USMLE and PLAB examinations, recognition by the Israeli Ministry of Health (MoH) was not forthcoming. Without this, graduates of AQMS residing in Jerusalem were unable to work as doctors in Jerusalem, which limited their employment and training opportunities and deprived the Arab health sector in East Jerusalem of capable doctors needed to fill the shortage in the medical workforce. Despite many efforts by the University administration, officials at the Israeli MoH would not change this irrational policy.
In 2009, 15 AQMS graduates with Israeli Jerusalem ID cards won a court case where the court decreed that the MoH should allow them to sit the licensing exam. 13 passed the test on the first attempt. The MoH, however, was not bound to use this as a precedent and again declined to accept other candidates in the following years. Another 50 filed a legal case against the MoH in 2014 seeking recognition on similar grounds as other foreign medical schools graduates. After a series of legal hearings and in conjunction with the AQU administration, an agreement was finally reached in the High Court. This compelled the MoH to grant total and retrospective recognition of AQMS graduates and allow them to take the licensing exam.
In 2015, 48 of 50 AQMS graduates (98%) who sat the exam passed on the first attempt. This was a spectacular success by any standards. By comparison, the pass rate in the Israeli licensing exam of graduates from the following medical schools is as follows:
- Jordan 88%
- Egypt 30%
- Germany 50%
- Hungary 65%
- Romania 30%
- Ukraine 13%
AQMS graduates also show stellar performance in the USMLE exams. They are considered among the top 1% tier of those who pass the exam on the first attempt. In addition, more than 100 of our graduates have successfully competed in admitting exams with graduates from Jordan and have been granted placements in residency programmes.
The curriculum and teaching methods, coupled with the selection process of students and the students’ motivation have proved their merit. The continuous support the school gets from its various friends, especially from FQMS, has been pivotal in achieving this success. Our medical graduates have clearly shown they are more than able to compete with other medical graduates in the international arena – of this we are proud.”