One of the critical issues that come to mind as far as medical training is concerned is the doctor-patient ratio. It is said that “a nation’s health is its wealth” and this statement reinforces the need to train more medical doctors to contribute towards improving the delivery of health care and accelerating economic development and social transformation of our country.
In response to this dire national need, the idea of establishing a School of Medical Sciences was conceived and nurtured by the then management of the University of Cape Coast (UCC). The small mustard seed sown in 2008 to contribute to bridging the doctor patient ratio has since yielded positive results. The UCC SMS though relatively young is now rated one of the best among its contemporaries in the country.
Recounting the processes that led to the establishment of the University of Cape Coast School of Medical Sciences (UCCSMS), the founding Dean, who is currently the Provost of the College of Health and Allied Sciences of the university, Rev Prof Harold S. Amonoo-Kuofi, said he was tasked by Professor Emmanuel Adow Obeng, the Vice-Chancellor at the time, to work towards making the school a reality. He noted that the establishment of a medical school in UCC was faced with stiff opposition from several quarters.
Prof. Amonoo-Kuofi said the university contacted a lot of stakeholders, including private organisations which provided funds for the initial infrastructure. These included Maersk (Ghana) Limited, Barclays Ghana Limited, Agricultural Development Bank, Mr Kennedy Agyapong and the late President John Evans Atta Mills. He added that the university played a key role in terms of advocating the upgrade of the Central Regional Hospital into a teaching hospital. As would be expected, the Teaching Hospital serves as the main hospital for practical training for UCCSMS students.
The University of Cape Coast School of Medical Sciences (UCCSMS) has since its establishment in 2013 produced a total of 186 medical doctors currently serving in different parts of the country. The UCCSMS, since its inception 10 years ago, has provided pioneering medical education with the highest standards of quality and excellence in the training of healthcare professionals using innovative curricula, modern educational methodology and assessment techniques that are verifiable and internationally accepted.
According to Rev. Prof. Amonoo-Kuofi, right from inception, the university adopted the Integrated Curriculum which appeared to be very ambitious and the regulators thought it was unachievable. He described the integrated curriculum as “student-centred, problem-based, community oriented, electives and systems-based” method of education.
As one of the youngest medical schools in the country, UCCSMS has set the pace for the introduction of innovation in medical education which has been accepted and embraced by other institutions. Special mention can be made of the White Coat Ceremony, Problem-Based Approach to teaching and learning and the Community-Based Experience and Service (CoBES).
Community-Based Experience and Service
The major emphasis of the UCCSMS is on community medicine and this covers a wide area in the Central and Eastern regions of Ghana. In this regard, the students of UCCSMS are exposed to rural communities where most of them are likely to be posted after their studies.
Presently, the university has six permanent CoBES sites where level 200-500 students are placed to undertake community service on specific themes each year. In the Central Region, UCCSMS has five CoBES sites and these include Twifo Praso in the Twifo Atti Morkwa District, Assin Fosu in the Assin South District; Abura Dunkwa in the Abura Asebu Kwaman District; Saltpond in Mfantseman Municipal Assembly and Assin Kushea in the Assin North District. UCCSMS has another CoBES site at Adjobue in Akyemansa District in the Eastern Region.
Another important component of the CoBES programme is that the medical students assess the needs of the people and provide some services such as books, health screening, boreholes, computers, toilets and also rehabilitate Community-based Health Planning and Services (CHPS) compounds.
With only 10 years of existence, UCCSMS has a lot to show and boast of as one of the best medical schools in Ghana and beyond. As pointed out earlier, the curriculum adopted by the school has been accepted and is being used by some of the older as well as new medical schools.
UCCSMS students on four occasions have performed creditably to the admiration of all in the Inter-Medical School Public Speaking Competition which is organised annually by a joint consortium from Canada.
Ever since UCCSMS joined the competition five years ago, the school has won it on four occasions making it the defending champions. This is a reflection of the standard UCCSMS has attained with the curriculum.
Since the 2016/2017 academic year, UCCSMS which, hitherto, ran only an undergraduate programme, has introduced some postgraduate programmes.
Prof Amonoo-Kuofi noted that initially there were many challenges but the school had managed to achieve a lot. “We are battling with getting larger lecture rooms, lecture facilities and a purpose built teaching hospital, recruiting adequate lecturers to enable us to increase the admission of students.”
According to Prof. Amonoo-Kuofi, a lot of progress had been made for UCC to get a teaching hospital. “In the not too distant future, UCC will get a teaching hospital. I’m hoping that in the next three years, we may see a 600-bed teaching hospital at the Amonoo-Kuofi Medical Village on campus,” Prof. Amonoo-Kuofi assured.
For his part the Dean of the UCCSMS, Prof Francis Werner Ofei, noted that the school was on course in its mission of contributing to quality health care in the country. He called on all stakeholders to join the school to celebrate its 10th anniversary. “There is every cause for a memorable celebration and I entreat all friends of the school to come and celebrate with us”. He gave an assurance that UCCSMS is poised to produce high calibre medical practitioners to help provide quality health care for the nation.