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History & Concept

Medical Education at Eastern University, Sri Lanka

The Faculty of Health-Care Sciences (FHCS) at Eastern University, Sri Lanka has been established after a Gazette notification made by the Government of Sri Lanka on 23rd November 2005. The first set of students to read for MBBS degree walked in on June 2006. Thus FHCS completes about 10 years of producing graduates in Human Health Sciences.
The formation of Faculty of Health-Care Sciences at Eastern University, Sri Lanka had been a long and planned process. This process allowed the incorporation of latest developments in the Health Sciences education in the global arena and has not been a copy of any existing program of any of the Medical faculties in Sri Lanka.
The following events could be called the noteworthy steps in the formation of the FHCS:

  1. Naming the Provincial Hospital, Batticaloa as a Teaching Hospital in 1993. Furthermore, the status was upgraded in 2006 after the establishment of FHCS.
  2. Post basic diploma in Nursing was began in 1998 and continued up to 2002.
  3. Formation of a Medical Faculty Committee that comprised well recognized academics, Medical Educationists, clinicians etc. since early 1990s.
  4. An Interim Faculty Board which has functioned since 2003 until the establishment of the faculty.
  5. Appointment of a Development Consultant.

In the formation of the faculty, several innovative steps have been taken to be on par with the reforms in the health sciences education. The following are worth mentioning:

  1. The Name ‘Faculty of Health-Care Sciences’is Faculty of Health-Care is unique.
  2. Integration of academic disciplines.
  3. Formation of Departments with the norm of administration.
  4. Incorporation of the MBBS study disciplines in four such departments.
  5. Formation of a department for other health sciences courses such as Nursing.
  6. Formation of a Department of Medical Education and Research.
  7. Identification and formulation of student learning objectives.
  8. Design of Curriculum in the form of Modules & Sessions.
  9. Incorporation of latest educational methodologies such as Problem Based Learning (PBL).
  10. Conducting the compulsory core course ‘Peace Medicine’.

Thereby, a new outlook has been provided to the MBBS study program ‘which has happened for the first time’ in the history of Health Sciences Education in Sri Lanka and has also paved way to have common sessions combined to MBBS & BSc Nursing study programs.

Categorization of student learning objectives and formation of the curriculum into modules and sessions also paved way for the faculty to find the best resource persons in the teaching-learning activities and who were able to deliver the best to the students.

It has been observed that ‘the main feature’ of the FHCS curriculum plan is the integration achieved through an organ-system approach and Problem Based Learning. The students learn medical knowledge, effective communication, and professional ethics and behavior via complementary co-modules and generic courses. The evaluation is through continuous modular and terminal assessments, where emphasis is placed on feedback and counselling. 

The faculty (FHCS) has been commenced with an aim of having different human health sciences degree programmes under ‘one roof’. Thus, apart from the MBBS program, the other degree programmes such as Nursing, Pharmacy Public Health etc. can be conducted. Currently B.Sc in Nursing has been conducted since 2008. Inputs from other departments have been provided as scheduled. Whenever possible attempts have been made to have sessions common to both MBBS and B.Sc Nursing programmes, together with success. 

Although on the cards, the formats new to Sri Lanka have been incorporated into the academic administrative set up and also into the study programmes of Faculty of Health-Care Sciences: their implementation was no smooth sailing. The major challenge faced is the lack of infrastructure and in particularly lack of staff. The faculty has been able to overcome this situation by incorporating the facilities and the extended faculty of Teaching Hospital Batticaloa into its degree programmes and also remarkably of the resources in the peripheral Hospitals including District General Hospital Ampara and Base Hospital Kalmunai which are situated in the neighboring Ampara District. 

Furthermore, the arrangement of modules and sessions enabled the faculty to choose academics from other universities and organization such as the World Health Organization, who were readily willing to assist in conducting the Teaching/Learning programme. 

The Consultant Specialists at the Teaching Hospital, Batticaloa, who comprised the extended faculty has been supportive not only in conducting the clinical aspects of the study programme, but also involved in the teaching of Basic Sciences and pathophysiology modules. This arrangement has an added advantage, that clinical inputs and facts of importance too are stressed while delivering the lessons. 

Credit for the major successes the FHCS achieved should go to the following:

  1. Former Chancellor, Eastern University, Sri Lanka Prof T Varagunam
    He was a well-known and respected Medical Educationist, Professor in Medicine at University of Peradeniya and was the live-wire of the Faculty of Health-Care Sciences during its initial period. He introduced new concepts in the structural and curricular design of this faculty, continued to give leadership and a helping hand in engaging the resources with the use of new technology such as video conferencing.
  2. The staff recruited in the initial years
    Staff recruited in 2005, 2006 and 2007 should be given credit. During these three years a handful of academic and non-academic staff were recruited to function at the Faculty when students began to get enrolled. It was their unprecedented dedication and application that initiated the success of this faculty.
  3. Planning of Infrastructure
    Infrastructure planning and development of the FHCS at its initial stage had to be reformulated form an already dismantled infrastructure development plan, which was painstaking. It was on this initial work done by a few staff that formulated a strong template for the infrastructure development at its permanent location and the construction has already commenced.
  4. Formulation of credits to the MBBS programme
    The task of allocating credits to the modules, instructional, practical and especially clinical components of the study programme was undertaken by the Department of Medical Education and Research and completed successfully. This was one of the significant achievements with regard to the MBBS degree program. This has been commended by the University Grants Commission also.
  5. The graduates
    It is hereby placed on record that the entire batch of students (27 in number) recruited as the first MBBS batch of this faculty, got through the Phase III (Final) MBBS examination in their first sitting itself. Furthermore, the students had to sit the common MCQ paper with which the graduates were ranked by the University Grants Commission to formulate the common merit list. One of our students was ranked 12th and three more students were within the first 40. The performance of the 2nd batch of students too were almost at the level of 1st batch except that, two students had to complete the Phase III (Final) in their 2nd attempt, in the same academic year.
  6. The Extended Faculty
    The unprecedented support given by the Consultant Specialists of Teaching Hospital, Batticaloa contributed significantly. The academic staff from other Medical faculties too was much supportive.

[Adopted from: Karunakaran, K.E. (2016). Health-Care Education in Batticaloa: Ten years on. Batticaloa Medical Journal, 7 (3-6).]