What I Learned from IIMC
“Oh my Lord, increase me in knowledge”
(Holy Quran 20: 114)
Islamic International Medical College (IIMC)
IIMC is one of the oldest and most well established private medical colleges in Punjab being established in 1996. It is affiliated with Riphah International University. IIMC is among the first private sector Medical College to be recognized by Pakistan Medical & Dental College (PMDC) in Federal Area, Punjab as well as northern part of the country.
IIMC is listed in the WHO directory of accredited medical schools and universities, International Medical Education Directory, USA (IMED) and International Institute of Medical Education, USA (IIME). More than a dozen batches of MBBS students have graduated from IIMC.
Four major teaching hospitals in the twin cities are affiliated with the College: Pakistan Railways General Hospital, Rawalpindi, Riphah International Hospital, Sihala, Islamic International Medical Complex, Islamabad and Heart International Hospital, Rawalpindi, for clinical and practical training of the students. Railway Hospital was markedly upgraded and renovated into a 400-bed teaching hospital with high tech equipment after it became affiliated with the college.
IIMC is also the only private medical college in Punjab/Federal area that provides postgraduate courses to its students. This outstanding opportunity is provided in basic sciences (MPhil in Anatomy, Biochemistry, Physiology and Pharmacology) as well as in clinical sciences (FCPS in Medicine, Surgery, Gynaecology and Obstretics, Paedriatics and Anesthesia). IIMC is also going to start PhD classes soon in many basic science subjects.
IIMC is affiliated with Riphah International University (RIU) and thus it is the only private medical college in the Federal/Punjab sector to establish its own University. RIU was chartered by the Federal Government of Pakistan in 2002 and is recognized by the Higher Education Commission (HEC). It is among the top ranked universities of Pakistan according to HEC.
It has now seven faculties offering more than 45 undergraduate, graduate and doctoral programs in various disciplines. The University has affiliations with the renowned national and international institutions. Recently it has established a strategic linkage with the Northern Consortium of eleven United Kingdom universities (NCUK).
The Teaching System
The teaching system at IIMC is in accordance with the modern method implemented by many other world medical universities, including 90% of American medical universities, which is the “Integrated Modular Teaching System”.
This is a system in which students are taught module or system-wise instead of traditional subject-wise, starting from foundations or basics and proceeding system wise (e.g. CVS, CNS, Blood, GIT etc) and completing two or three spirals through the 5 year course; emphasis is laid more on basic science subjects in first spiral and more on clinical subjects in the 2nd spiral.
An integrated teaching offers several advantages:
- Basic sciences are simplified without needless details and taught along with clinical disciplines.
- Learning is abbreviated without repetition in different subjects giving a composite picture with simultaneous clinical demonstration
- Basic science subjects are integrated with each other (horizontal integration) and with clinical science subjects (vertical integration).
- Importance of individual subjects is subordinated to the main goal of training a functional physician & making him/her future ‘tomorrow’s doctor’ or ‘5 star doctor’.
- It helps to improve concepts as knowledge between the different subjects is integrated as they go through the system
- It is a more effective teaching method and vastly improves the cognitive & psychomotor skills of students.
- More chance of problem based learning through integrated teaching system with background knowledge of the problem/disease from various subjects/resources
- There is much more interaction involved with maximum number of students. It also enhances their ability to correlate clinically and improve their diagnostic and management skills, so as to become better clinicians.
It is said that this system will be enforced soon throughout the country as World Federation of Medical Education has stated that medical graduates coming out in 2023 must have gone through the modern teaching strategies. Moreover, non-implementation entails closing the doors of foreign employment on Pakistani doctors after eight years:
IIMC is one of the medical colleges in the country to introduce this advanced teaching system since the last few years. I personally have experience of teaching in both traditional as well as the new integrated teaching system and have found this system much better for the students as future doctors.
This is what impressed me the most as I have been part of the curriculum making process at IIMC. The following points were highlighted by the curriculum committee:
- Medical educationists stressed that our aim is NOT to make students biochemists, pharmacologists, physiologists etc. Our aim is only make them tomorrow’s doctor; hence we should try to focus on aspects related to more pertinent problems, diseases/conditions prevalent in our country.
- The curriculum committee stressed that there should be a clear demarcation between what may be asked (or what level may be asked) from students of BDS, MBBS & MPhil. I was asked “please tell us what would be the difference in your MBBS curriculum and an MPhil curriculum?”
- We were asked to make well-defined documented learning objectives as to what a student should know at the end of each topic. This would make it easier for the students to search answers to questions not found in recommended textbooks and know what is expected from a lecture that he/she has inadvertently missed. No question may come from outside those learning objectives. As every teacher may have specific learning objectives of his own from each topic & may assess them in exams, so all these should be collectively or otherwise documented by the University.
- Documenting these learning objectives encouraged students to search for answers instead of sticking to one textbook. It encouraged active learning. Similarly teachers were given freedom to teach and ask questions from any textbook as long as it was covering those learning objectives.
- The system also gave the opportunity to students to challenge questions that came out of the documented learning objectives.
- This is opposed to the traditional system in which the end result is that students are crammed with knowledge (which has no limits) and forced to learn by rote system (memorization) and confused as to which book(s) to read & professors are also confused as to which book(s) to recommend to their students.
- The system also taught me NOT to load students with excess knowledge. We should NOT expect students to memorize each and every page of many recommended books of Pharmacology and beyond.
Problem Based Learning
This is a relatively new teaching methodology in which students are encouraged to acquire new knowledge of some important aspects of medical education through real life scenarios (problems), based on recognition to learn. In this system, students play a far more active role; working in groups, students identify what they already know, what they need to know, and how and where to access new information that may lead to resolution of the problem.
The teaching system is very much successful in its objectives: student-centered learning, developing problem-solving skills, self-directed learning, encouraging brainstorming, and developing effective collaboration skills and intrinsic motivation. The PBL teaching system is slowly being introduced in medical colleges throughout the country, but it was introduced in IIMC 4-5 years ago!
The students in IIMC, again from my experience here, are more active learners, are more clinical oriented and hence ask more clinically oriented questions and do create a lot of brainstorming for themselves as well as for the teachers! The introduction of the integrated teaching system and PBL based learning is expected to produce better CLINICALLY oriented doctors.
The Evaluation System
One of the beauties of the integrated system is that modular exams are held regularly after the module finishes in 1-2 months, which ensures that students are studying all the year around instead of “end of the year studying”. (Combined Modular Exams now). These module exams consist of theory (Multiple Choice Questions-MCQs) and OSPE/OSCE stations which include spotting, viva, skills assessment etc.
Each & every MCQ & OSPE/OSCE question given by every department is assessed by a multi-member assessment committee. Only those MCQs are selected that pass the criteria given by medical educationists for a standard MCQ. There are no ‘long essay’ or ‘short essay’ questions (SEQs) which are less reliable, less comprehensive and offer less uniform/standard checking than MCQs.
One objection i do have is that there are no subjective questions in any summative assessment exam.
I would also like to appreciate the overall environment at IIMC where strict discipline is maintained starting with separate dress codes for boys & girls. This is in accordance with the mission statement of Riphah University: “Establishment of State of the Art Educational Institutions with a focus on inculcating Islamic ethical values”.
Lectures on different aspects of Islamic education are delivered regularly besides a lecture of the Islamic aspects of every organ system is given in at the end of each module. There is a separate dress code for girls and boys, which I personally feel, is a more disciplined approach and the reason why I feel IIMC & Riphah stand out among all other colleges & universities of the country for having the most disciplined students.
This is one of the rare colleges in the country where you will find the honorable principal of the college standing next to a peon in Zuhr prayers at the college mosque!
I wish all my readers the very best in their quest of fulfilling their dreams of getting admission in a medical college in the country. I am sure you all have set your own criteria for choosing a medical college according to your personal requirements, ambitions and suitability but I do hope you will consider the merits of IIMC and Riphah International University mentioned above.
I am extremely thankful to the honorable principal of IIMC, vice principal with whom I had a great working relationship, RARE department (medical education dept) of IIMC, faculty members and the wonderful students of IIMC for giving me a great learning experience.
Stay calm, dear students of IIMC, you are in safe hands!