SPEECH BY THE VICE-CHANCELLOR, UNIVERSITY OF MEDICAL SCIENCES,
PROFESSOR FRIDAY OKONOFUA FAS, ON THE FIRST DAY OF THE ORIENTATION PROGRAM FOR NEW STUDENTS - January 14, 2016
It is with deep sense of satisfaction and fulfilment that I welcome the first set of students to the University of Medical Sciences. I warmly congratulate you for this remarkable achievement: not only are you the first set of students in the University, you are also the first set of students in the first ever University of Medical Sciences in Nigeria, and indeed, in West Africa. I congratulate your parents and guardians who have worked extremely hard to make this day a great fulfilment in your lives. I pray that the Lord Almighty will give you the physical and intellectual endowments to overcome all difficulties in your quest for education in this University.
Surely, you must see yourselves as a special breed of students in more ways than one. You are here solely on the basis of your high performance in both the JAMB and Post-UME Examinations conducted by this University. Only those of you with high aggregate scores were admitted into the University, because we want to set a high standard for your education right from the very beginning and we are eager to maintain those standards. Of the more than 5000 students who sought admission into the five new courses in the University, only 189 students were admitted, which suggests a high competition for the few available spaces. Indeed, of those who sought admission into the MBBS program, less than 0.1% was eventually admitted. So, you are indeed, a rare species of students and I want to once again warmly congratulate you for your high success. However, to whom much is given, much is expected. We expect that you will focus mainly on your educational pursuit in this University, so that you will attain our vision of ensuring that you emerge as the best cohort of medical graduates ever produced in this country.
Permit me therefore to reflect on some philosophical issues relating to your new environment.
What is a University? A University is an institution of higher (or tertiary) education and research which grants academic degrees in various subjects and typically provides undergraduate and postgraduate education. The word "University" is derived from the Latin "Universitas Magistrorum et Scholarium", which roughly means "community of teachers and scholars". Thus, a University can be defined simply as a community of teachers, scholars and students, eager to benefit from the communal pot of knowledge. Traditionally, universities have come to be recognised as performing three main functions. These are teaching, research and service delivery, all designed to bring greater value to the community served by the University. Thus, Universities are apical centres of knowledge and skills acquisition necessary for countries and communities to bring about development and foster the greater needs of populations. With research and innovation, Universities seek to advance human knowledge in various disciplines. This is because what we know today of human development is only a tip of the iceberg. Universities must continue to engage in essential research and innovative activities, without which no progress can be made. Recent discoveries such as the internet are still involving and without continued and sustained research, the world will not make progress of the type we are now making. Thus, Universities must continue to pursue high quality learning, research and innovation if efforts to address the numerous challenges that face human development.
The Place of UNIMED The University of Medical Sciences was established to fill the gap in human resource needs in the health professions not only in Nigeria, but indeed, in the entire West African region. Our vision is to ensure that this University becomes the hub for training, research and service delivery in all health sciences disciplines at least within the context of West Africa.
Nigeria has one of the most serious challenges in human resource development for health in the developing world. The World Health Organization recommends that for optimal health care delivery, countries should aim to have one doctor per 600 patients. Nigeria currently has one doctor to 6,400 patients, representing almost 90% shortfall of the WHO recommendation. Today there are about 65,000 registered medical doctors in Nigeria, with only 25,000 doctors practicing in the country. To achieve the WHO benchmark, Nigeria needs to have 283,333 doctors, measuring by its 170 million estimated population. This means that the country needs additional 283,308 doctors at the moment.
Similar situation applies to Dentistry. Nigeria currently has 0.2 dentists per 1000 people, and was ranked 152th out of 175 countries in 2013 in terms of density of dentists. The country also ranks low in the number of other health professionals - pharmacists/pharmaceutical personnel, nurses/midwives, physiotherapists/occupational therapists, radiographers, and medical laboratory technologists. Worse still, many of the health professions have not been strongly placed in the scientific pedestal in the country. Whereas many health professional courses are being offered at undergraduate and post- graduate levels in other parts of the world, only a few Nigerian Universities offer courses in several health related disciplines.
By the end of 2015, there were 141 Universities approved by the NationalUniversities Commission (NUC) in Nigeria. Of these,40 are federally Funded41 are Universities funded by States, while the large majority (61) are private Universities. Thus, the private sector presently provide the bulk of University education in the country. However, not all Universities offer medical or health related courses in the country. Of the 141 Universities, only 31 Universities offer medical/health-related courses. Universities offering medical courses must certify both the NUC accreditation requirements and also those of the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria (MDCN). The MDCN requirements are much more stringent. To date, only 27 of the 31 Medical Schools are fully registered by both the NUC and the MDCN, while four are only partially registered by MDCN.
Also, there are currently only 8 Dental Schools in Nigeria, 7 of which are federally funded, while one is funded by the Lagos State Government. There are no privately funded Dental Schools in Nigeria. The greater challenge, however is that despite the seemingly high number of medical schools, the MDCN has only approved them to admit not more than 2,500 medical students and 175 dental students in total each year. With a projected attrition rate of close to 10%, it means that only about 2,250 doctors and 155 dentists graduate each year from all the medical and dental schools in Nigeria. In actuality, the figures are much lower. When this is compared with the actual number of doctors and dentists needed to provide health care to the increasing Nigerian population, the seriousness of the short-fall in medical human resource development in the country becomes more glaring.
Thus, the main justification for establishing the University of Medical Sciences is to contribute to the training of health professionals, needed to correct the current shortfalls in human resources for health in the country. UNIMED is the first specialised University of Medical Sciences in Nigeria and indeed in West Africa, and it is the only one of 3 such Universities in the whole of Africa. When fully functional, the University will offer courses in all health disciplines, not presently covered by Universities in Nigeria such as occupational therapy, Orthotic and Prosthetic Technology and Speech and Language therapy will be offered by the new University. Additionally, the University will create a niche for itself in offering post-graduate degrees (Masters and PhDs) in health courses to address the present requirements of the National Universities Commission (NUC) for academic re-orientation in all medical disciplines. Thus, right from the onset the University has been designed to offer both undergraduate and post-graduate courses in line with the NUC requirements that at least 25% of admission places be reserved for post-graduate students.
Also, over the years the quality of undergraduate training in Medicine and Allied courses have declined largely due to lack of adequate equipment and resources for training. The number of students per University often outstrips the available equipment, resources and staff. It is therefore not surprising that many students requiring quality undergraduate and post-graduate education often travel abroad, the majority of whom remain in the country where they trained and never return to the country. To address this problem, UNIMED will provide state-of-the-art facilities resources for training, which would be comparable to those available in more developed parts of the world. Overall, the University will be positioned as a centre of excellence in training, service delivery and innovative research in the health services and will target students from all of Africa and beyond.
The quality of indigenous health research has also declined in Nigeria over the past two decades, largely due to lack of specific provision for research in the budgets of Universities. Thus, research skills are being increasingly lost in most Nigerian Universities, with the result that the quantum of high quality health research contributed to the international literature by Nigerian academics and institutions have declined over the years. Despite the high burden of disease in Nigeria - maternal and child ill-health, HIV/AIDS, cancers, cardiovascular and renal diseases, etc. - it is worrisome that no Nigerian institution has been able to make significant breakthroughs in finding major innovative solutions and discovering new pathways of prevention and treatment. UNIMED right from the onset to be a research-driven institution with undergraduate and post-graduate students being provided with skills and knowledge on the rubrics of essential and applied research. Essential facilities will be provided to ensure that research for solving regional challenges in health are conducted using multi-disciplinary and collaborative approaches that involves regional planners and stakeholders to ensure effective translation of research results into products, policies and actions in health care. Various departments of the University will also be linked to their counterparts in high performance Universities around the world to ensure that research methods, and results meet international benchmarks.
One major challenge facing the Nigerian health sector has been intense inter- professional rivalry among the different professionals, leading to frequent strikes and lock-outs. This is now believed to be due to the silo-ed nature of training of health professionals, where each profession develops and applies its training separately, without an attempt to cross fertilize training modules between the different health professions. It is now considered that an integrated approach that brings the training of health professional under one philosophy and strategic vision will largely enable health professionals to focus on the core mission of providing services for the attainment of good health. Through its collaborative approach to program development, planning and implementation, UNIMED will integrate the training of health professionals, producing graduates that see the health profession as an integral part rather than as antagonistic parts. This indeed, will be a major innovative contribution to human resource development and the fostering of inter-professional harmony in the Nigerian health sector.
In sum, UNIMED is being developed as amajor health sciences University that would correct the deficiencies in human resource development for health in Nigeria. It will set a good example for our educational and health care systems to attain the best outcomes and successes comparable to those in more developed parts of the world. The University is a major legacy of the Ondo State Government and a crucial sustainable contribution to social change on youth development and knowledge transfer on health in the region.
Mission of UNIMED
The Mission of the University of Medical Sciences (UNIMED) is to provide exceptional quality and comprehensive health care and integrated education and research in all health-related sciences, to expand access to compassionate and high quality health care for under-served populations, and to lead the scientific pathway for reducing the burden of disease in our areas of operation.
The vision of UNIMED is to be a thriving medical and health sciences University, locally, nationally and internationally recognized for excellence and innovation in health education and research, and for ability to translate research findings for the improvement of health in communities with high burden of disease.
For Learning and Community Service
Core Values of UNIMED
1) We have comprehensive portfolio of medical and healthcare education, services and training programmes that meet international standards; 2) We support a focussed, policy relevant and applied research portfolio; 3) We hold an innovative and entrepreneurial ethos, and train our students to imbibe this spirit even after graduation; 4) We seek collaboration and partnerships with social change makers in the education, health and social fields from all parts of the world; 5) We are service-oriented and we reach out to the poor from the poorest and most marginalised areas of the world.
Goal of the University
The goal of the University is to support Nigeria's quest for high quality education, service delivery, research and innovation in the medical sciences.
The specific objectives for establishing UNIMED are as follows:
- To prepare students for leading professional roles in all disciplines in the health sector in Nigeria and globally;
- To offer the best tertiary health care (including preventive and curative care) for all forms of diseases, disabilities and deformities that are prevalent in Nigeria specifically, and throughout the African region broadly;
- To promote research and creative work for transforming and improving the health of Nigerians and the world at large;
- To develop human and physical resources of the University to some of the best attainable standards in the world; and
- To promote the health and social well-being of Nigerians through engagement, outreach services and public education.
- 1) Be proud and confident that you are in the University that would offer you the possibility to attain your highest level of professional and social development.
- 2) Be good ambassadors of the University as you will be required to prove your specific position of excellence at all times
- 3) Put learning as your number 1 priority in the University and insist on receiving the best learning experience from your teachers and supervisors
- 4) Be inquisitive for only an inquiring mind would be able to make discoveries. Some of the earth-breaking discoveries were made by students in their formative years. Example is the discovery of insulin by Banting and Best, two medical students at the University of Toronto in the early 20th Century. The internet and face book were also discovered by students at Harvard University. Unfortunately, the research content of undergraduate medical education in this country has not been very optimal. We believe that students should begin from day one in this University to take research and entrepreneurship very seriously, so that they can position themselves to solve the various health problems that bedevil this country.
- 5) Make good associations only and shun all vices including examination malpractices, cheating and cultism. Be sure that the University will not hesitate to severely punish any student who deviates from the normal mode of behaviour.
- 6) The University will reward students who do well and who excel at different levels. To this end, I would like to announce that the students who scored the highest aggregate score in the first admission exercise of this University is being offered tuition free scholarship by the Vice-Chancellor. His/her name will be announced after this lecture and the discussion that follows.
Advice to Students
Surely, only the best is good enough for students of UNIMED. We enjoin students to join in the university's vision to attain world class status within the shortest period of time. Once again, accept my warm congratulations for your success in the JAMB and Post-UTME examinations that ensured your admission into the University.