Online education has never been as important as it is today.
The International Emergency Medicine Education Project began in 2015 at the College of Medicine and Health Sciences (CMHS) of the United Arab Emirates University (UAEU) with a vision to promote emergency medicine and provide free, reusable educational resources for the world’s medical students. It took three years to establish the project and create the necessary resources that were provided by 187 contributors from 27 countries. Contributors included world-renowned emergency physicians, academic institutions, residents, students and both UAEU students and Tawam Hospital doctors were active participants in preparing these resources. Dr. Arif Alper Cevik, Director of Emergency Medicine Clerkship at UAEU, has been leading the project, which was endorsed by the International Federation for Emergency Medicine (IFEM) – a global umbrella of emergency medicine national associations around the world with 85 member-countries, including the Emirates Society of Emergency Medicine in the UAE.
The project resources were launched at the International Emergency Medicine Conference in Mexico in June 2018 and since then students from more than 200 countries have started using the platform. In 2020 alone, almost 263,500 users visited the project’s main platform and used the free resources, while the top ten countries of these students included the US (37 percent), followed by India, the United Kingdom, Malaysia, Australia and Canada, as well as the UAE, Saudi Arabia, the Philippines and Mexico.
Dr. Cevik says emergency medicine is a speciality, but emergency medicine education in medical schools is currently very limited, even in developed systems. Although emergency medicine is approved as a speciality in many countries, more focus is placed on residency training and emergency healthcare system development. “Many ignore undergraduate emergency medicine education inside the medical school curriculum, which is important because every resident comes from medical school and if we cannot teach emergency medicine in medical school, then we may not attract really good, passionate future emergency medicine doctors and improve emergency healthcare” Dr Cevik explained. “Undergraduate emergency medicine training, on the other hand, provides insight about how emergency medicine works and how future doctors can save lives with simple, critical actions. Undergraduate emergency medicine training makes medical students more competent and confident about managing emergencies, and knowledgeable about the emergency healthcare system. These are the factors that eventually improve patient care and develop the country’s emergency health care system.”
While some countries provide undergraduate emergency medicine education, some research has shown that there is a lack of emergency medicine resources and education for medical students in all countries, and particularly for trainees in low- to middle-income countries. Dr. Cevik’s pilot study about the usage of the project resources found that most students and trainees using the project’s free resources are still within the high- and upper-income bracket. These results provide information about higher demand in those countries. However, Dr. Cevik pinpoints the resource gap in low- and lower-middle-income countries including limited internet infrastructure, unfamiliarity with available resources, lack of guidance by emergency medicine educators, and constrained institutional subscriptions to other available resources. The majority of the students in these countries also cannot afford registration fees for some educational resources. Therefore, providing free resources for them is important.
Dr. Cevik spoke of the importance of spreading such resources for free because emergency medicine is the core speciality that every medical graduate should be aware of and strive to improve his or her emergency medicine knowledge and skills. “Because the speciality focuses on saving lives affected mainly by acute and unexpected medical conditions, we want every student to know these and have confidence in them,” he said, adding that, unlike developed countries, not every graduate of a medical college goes to residency training after graduation. Many graduates, particularly from low- and lower-middle-income countries, provide emergency services in ambulances and city hospitals right after graduation, without a formal emergency medicine training to take care of patients. Therefore, providing free high quality online emergency medicine educational resources can help these medical students a lot.
While the project continues its activities and research, the recent pandemic greatly affected medical student training worldwide, especially face-to-face education in the many countries lacking virtual learning platforms. With the pandemic placing the breaks on schools all over the world, technology has come to the rescue. As such, and with the support of the UAEU CMHS and IFEM, Dr. Cevik launched an online course platform within the project to provide free emergency medicine-related courses for medical students. Starting in May 2020, more than 4,000 students from around the globe registered for various courses, such as emergency medicine core content course (>2300 students), Covid-19 Clinical Preparedness course (>700 students) in the first six months. “All these resources are free for every medical student and trainee around the world, and we are looking at this initiative as our social responsibility in these difficult days” he said.
Going forward, Dr. Cevik and project contributors plan to open new course modules, update resources and launch a new research initiative under the same umbrella, with the support of the CMHS and IFEM. Having applied for a grant, he aims to focus directly on low- and lower-middle-income countries to reach students in dire need. “We may need one year to update our content and focus on evidence-based knowledge and their needs, adding components to each chapter with low settings so they can benefit,” he said, mentioning an improvement in chapters, educational videos, interviews with world experts/authors/contributors, quizzes and chapter audio resources. To ensure their needs are met, he plans to communicate with those countries’ scientific institutions and contact national associations via the university CMHS and IFEM, and share resources with them. As such, he expects a 10 percent increase in the use of resources from low- and lower-middle-income countries.
“The project will give these students an added chance to increase their knowledge and eventually save more lives in their countries” he said. Dr. Cevik hopes to share that knowledge and provide an opportunity for those in need. He also believes it is a good opportunity to demonstrate the competency of academics and enthusiasm of education specialists from Abu Dhabi for collaboration with the international scientific community. It can further show the UAE’s willingness and determination to help disadvantaged countries and their medical students in the world.
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