Federation to review foreign schools after educational standards are questioned

State medical boards lack the resources to evaluate every international medical school on their own.

By Damon Adams — Posted June 7, 2004

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The Federation of State Medical Boards has decided to look into ways to deal with the lack of accreditation standards for international medical schools.

At its annual meeting in May, the federation's house of delegates passed a resolution creating a committee to study the issue. It will develop recommendations to help state medical boards classify international medical schools and identify organizations best suited to evaluate the quality of the schools.

"There is no international system for judging the quality of medical student education of somebody coming from another country," said James Thompson, MD, CEO of the Texas-based federation, which represents 70 medical boards in the United States and its territories.

The issue gained attention in December 2003, when The Hartford Courant published an investigation detailing that hundreds of doctors nationwide earned degrees from medical schools whose graduates are banned in several states because of questionable educational standards. The newspaper's series said inconsistent licensing rules among states allow about 900 doctors to practice here after graduating from international medical schools that likely would not have been accredited in the United States.

Seven medical boards introduced the resolution that called for a committee to look into the lack of accreditation standards. Board officials said a growing number of international schools are granting medical degrees for nonstandard educational practices such as awarding credit for experience in another health care profession.

Dr. Thompson said boards do a good job of verifying the credentials of international medical graduates and assessing test scores and skills. But they lack the resources to evaluate the curriculum and operations of each international medical school, officials said.

The new federation committee is expected to meet at least twice this year. It will report its findings and recommendations to the federation's house of delegates next spring.

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