Pakistani medical graduates working in the United States face an uncertain future

Pakistan has failed to meet the requirements of the World Federation of Medical Education (WFME), and the deadline is rapidly approaching. As a result, Pakistani medical school graduates may not be authorized to practice in the United States (US) beyond January 2024.

The defunct Pakistan Medical and Dental Council (PMDC) had applied for WFME accreditation and invited its delegation to visit Pakistan. However, in 2019, the PMDC was abolished, and the Pakistan Medical Commission (PMC) was founded. The WFME visit was therefore postponed.

Pakistan has until January 2024 to obtain accreditation from the WFME, and the current Pakistan Medical Commission (PMC) Act does not match the requirements for international recognition.

The PMC, on the other hand, asserted that it has “officially commenced the application process for recognition” and that the complete procedure, including an on-site visit by the WFME, is anticipated to take between 12 and 15 months, which is well within the Jan 2024 timeframe.

PMA official expresses concern that Pakistan may miss the WFME recognition deadline; PMC responds there is no cause for alarm.

According to a top official of the Ministry of National Health Services (NHS), approximately 25 percent of American doctors hold international credentials.

“US’s Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG), after realizing that the quality of foreign graduates was deteriorating due to the mushroom growth of private-profit colleges, announced on September 21, 2011, that after January 2023, only graduates from countries with WFME recognition will be permitted to take the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE),” the official said, adding that the deadline was later extended to January 2024 due to a backlog of applicants.

Although the PMDC had initiated the process, it was ultimately replaced by the PMC due to a presidential proclamation.

The PMC began pretending to be a licensing organization, and universities were given the authority to inspect medical institutions. In other words, the PMC lacks control over medical education in the United States.

Pakistan may miss the deadline if prompt action is not taken, rendering Pakistani medical school graduates ineligible to practice medicine in the United States.

Dr. Qaiser Sajjad, secretary general of the Pakistan Medical Association (PMA), told Dawn that it was sad that the PMC had canceled the WFME’s visit.

“Obtaining accreditation by 2024 will not be easy, as there is a comprehensive list of requirements, including quality of education, criteria for college inspections, norms, and faculty,” the source stated.

The PMC claimed to have formally launched the application procedure in a written statement.

The evaluation, which will include a physical visit by the WFME, is anticipated to take between 12 and 15 months, which is well within 2024 when WFME recognition will be required to practice medicine in the United States.

Before the actual assessment and inspection procedure of the WFME, the PMC will work closely with the WFME and other international organizations to verify that all recognized criteria are met.

“The WFME recognition process is divided into phases, with comprehensive data and information submissions made and reviewed according to the steps of the WFME procedure, culminating in a final physical inspection and evaluation of the PMC and selected medical colleges,” the document states.

“Preparing for the WFME process, which is now complete, required the commission’s considerable efforts and nearly 18 months of continuous action.

The formal submission to the WFME to commence the process requires the prior acceptance of the newly authorized 2022 National Standards for Recognition of Medical and Dental Colleges and Teaching Hospitals and the 2022 National Medical and Dental Curricula.”

The commission has worked tirelessly over the past year to ensure that all regulatory processes, including the recognition and accreditation of teaching hospitals and colleges, the admission and examination process, and especially the national licensing examination, are designed and implemented following the highest international standards, including the introduction of digital licensing for practitioners, as stated in the report.