AAIMS hosts first graduation and white coat ceremony
Launtia Cuff, Gleaner Writer
Receiving the charter to establish and operate a school of medical sciences from the Government in May, 2009 the All American Institute of Medical Sciences (AAIMS) opened its doors as the first off-shore medical school in the island, with six students. Since then, the school which is located in Black River, St Elizabeth has seen significant growth, and had it first graduation and white coat ceremony last Thursday.
In her address, dean of the school, Dr Sheila Forrester, said that the student population now stands at 127 with 36 per cent of the students being non-Jamaican nationals.
"The school population is now 127, of which 46 are international students from Nigeria, United States (US), Canada, India, Kenya, Bahamas, Barbados, Bermuda, Trinidad and Tobago. The 127 [students] are distributed between the pre-med and medical programmes," she said.
Forrester said that there were two parts to the ceremony.
"There are two parts to this graduation: We train students to pre-med level, giving them the opportunity to achieve the level of education necessary for entry into medical school; the Associate and Bachelor of Science degrees.
"The second is, we are symbolically transitioning our medical students from the basic sciences to the medical programme through the White Coat Ceremony. The white coat symbolises the beginning of a journey in a career in medicine with being an apprenticeship to becoming a medical doctor. It symbolises that our students will now live up to the ethics and moral principles of medicine. It is a great day as it shows the school is progressing," said Forrester.
She went on to say that the school was making many strides and that there was evidence showing that they are an authentic school.
"We congratulate 12 students who have been successful in step one [of the] US Medical License Examination and our first group of four medical students who are now preparing for step two in 2015, and will become the first medical graduates.
"We are an authentic school provisionally accredited by the Caribbean Accreditation Authority for Health Professions, and are working towards full accreditation in 2015. In November, full registration as a tertiary institution was granted by the University Council of Jamaica.
"We are listed in the International Medical Schools Directory, World Health Organization's Avicenna Global Medical School Directory and World Federation of Medical Education School Directory," she explained.
She went on to say that an important aspect of the training is the practical experience that the students needed to acquire. As such, memorandums of understanding (MOUs) have been signed with the Southern and Western Regional Health Authorities, to facilitate students.
"A requirement for completing the medical course is the practical experience. We have signed MOUs with the Southern Regional Health and the Western Regional Health Authorities to provide this practical experience, and already our students have been going to the May Pen Hospital and the Black River Health Department. There are opportunities for overseas experience, which [has] been accessed by some of our students at two US hospitals - Providence Hospital [and] Baltimore Washington Medical Centre," she said in her address.
The dean said that the school had a strategic plan moving forward and that this would be of benefit for not only the school but for the entire town of Black River.
"You can see that there has been progress, but we must move forward with the times and have a vision for the future. Under the guidance of the board of management, we have a strategic plan for 2014-2016. Our vision: we will attain an international reputation as an outstanding medical institute distinguished by excellence, leadership, research and innovation in the quality of our teaching, in student learning and achievement and in engagement with our communities.
"In March of this year, I had the pleasure of attending a meeting at Harvard University. It is located in a university town and, therefore, services, commerce, transport, entertainment related to the university town are woven into the design and development of the city. It is an economic venture. Already, there is an increase in economic activity reported. Black River and St Elizabeth have the potential to be just that and, as a community, I urge you to have a vision of the future as you support the growth and development, not only of the town, but of our students as well," the dean said.