Dear Colleagues,

A year ago, I reported on the progress that the Royal College had made in its international outreach activities. I laid out a comprehensive summary of the approach we are taking to engage and guide our international partners in achieving their goals for postgraduate medical education (PGME), specialty practice and, as a result, better health care in their locales.

An evolution toward strategic engagement

At the time of my last message, RCCI was mainly receiving requests for taking on short-term educational services with partners. For example, a partner overseas would ask us to lead a workshop on CanMEDS or present a course on acute critical event simulation. It was unclear to us whether the interventions were effective or how they fit into our partners’ overall plans for PGME.

Today, our focus is to engage with international partners more strategically by familiarizing ourselves with their longer-term goals and determining in what specific ways we can help. This means that our international outreach is evolving into a set of services that is less about simply delivering isolated sets of knowledge, skill or expertise—and more about developing strategic relationships in which we begin to understand our partners’ underlying needs and the specific, incremental interventions that will bring about meaningful improvement over time.

As one example, we have an emerging long-term relationship with Pontifica Universidad Catholica de Chile (PUCC). We have worked with our Chilean partner in various capacities over three years, reviewing the undergraduate program, conducting several postgraduate residency program reviews and conducting several workshops on CanMEDS, on professionalism and on accreditation, to name just a few. Our follow-up visits to PUCC reveal that the results of our evaluations have been translated to other programs and many of our recommendations have been implemented. More than that, in becoming familiar with the Royal College, PUCC has also become familiar with our International Conference on Residency Education and has recognized the value of organizing a similar event. In October 2013, PUCC, the Pan American Health Organization and the Royal College will present the Latin American Conference on Residency Education. There is no other such conference in Latin America. This is the level of engagement the Royal College will work to achieve with international partners in future, wherever practical.

A need to recruit more Fellows

An obvious implication of deeper involvement is a greater need for volunteers willing to help nurture partnerships over time. In July, we ran a training workshop for international outreach in which we doubled (from 15 to 30) the number of Fellows willing to engage in such efforts. The workshop provided Fellows with information about the cultural contexts in which they will be expected to work (Latin America, Asia, the Middle East), the ways in which they will need to communicate as they engage with international partners, and other sensitivities and skills needed in various geographical and political contexts. The challenge is to get the right number of Fellows trained, engaged and ready. I invite all Fellows interested in engaging internationally to register as volunteers.

A strong RCCI is good for the Royal College

Some Fellows ask me why we have made international outreach a strategic priority. My answer is twofold. First, we do so because it is good for the Royal College. When we work with countries that share our values and support our standards, we build the Royal College’s reputation as the gold standard in PGME and specialty practice. Our work internationally gives us more visibility and an enhanced reputation abroad. These are great assets.

Second, we engage with international partners because we believe it will help people. Reaching out internationally is an expression of our belief in the value of Canada’s medical education system, especially as it compares to the standards of our partner countries. Sharing our knowledge, expertise and systems, therefore, is part of our altruistic vision. Why wouldn’t we want to have a part in raising the level of PGME and specialty practice and, as a result, help improve the quality of healthcare internationally?

As globalization continues and medical systems around the world evolve, developing countries will seek best-in-breed medical education. Many, if not most, will choose to adopt the practices and expertise of others rather than expend the time and resources needed to build their own infrastructure for PGME from the ground up. The question for the Royal College is: Do we wish to establish our organization as one among a select group of accrediting and certifying bodies for international partners? The answer, unequivocally, is “yes”.

As always, I am interested in your thoughts on this and any other topic you consider important. Is it a worthwhile use of Royal College expertise and resources to pursue international partnerships with developing nations? Please contact me personally with your comments and suggestions. I also invite you to send in suggestions for topics that you’d like me to address in my regular blog.

Enjoy the rest of your summer.

Yours sincerely,

Andrew Padmos, BA, MD, FRCPC, FACP
Chief Executive Officer