Dr. Enrique Graue Wiechers
Director
UNAM School of Medicine
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View from the Top

Educating the Physicians of the Future

Sat, 09/05/2015 - 13:13

Q: What are the main milestones of the School of Medicine?

A: The School of Medicine has more than 436 years of history and has long been influential in the way Mexico develops its medical human resources. We are closely affiliated with the country’s health sector as a whole and have 3,568 professors and approximately 18,000 students, of which 7,000 are undergraduate students and 11,000 are postgraduate students. Every year we receive between 800 and 1,000 students while 850 students graduate. Most of our undergraduate students join the university through the direct admissions system based on high grades obtained at high schools affiliated with the university, while there are 300 additional places for which 16,000 students compete each year. Since the process is highly competitive, we can ensure that we welcome the best students available and provide them with the most comprehensive education possible. To enter our graduate program, 40,000 candidates take a national examination based on which 7,500 are selected.

Q: What are the most important changes that have been made to the curriculum during your tenure?

A: The school updates its curriculum approximately every six years. The latest changes were made in 2010, thus the next update will be implemented between 2016 and 2017. The most recent updates involved a deep and comprehensive approach to the shifts in Mexico’s epidemiological profile, focusing mainly on degenerative diseases. Our goal is, and has always been, to prepare doctors according to the needs of the population. This curriculum accounts for both Mexico’s aging population and the rise in chronic degenerative diseases, including hypertension, diabetes mellitus, rheumatism, and Alzheimer’s, among others. We are including new subjects such as geriatrics and are updating several programs to provide an improved focus on nutrition, diabetes, and hypertension. Despite this we will not disregard infectious diseases.

Q: What can be done to mitigate the shortage of specialists in certain medical areas?

A: The health sector has been developing disproportionately, creating an excess of physicians in certain specialties and a shortage in others. Another problem is that most resources for doctors are centralized and certain areas of Mexico, mainly large cities, have an excess of doctors, while rural areas have a shortage. This is a socioeconomic problem as doctors naturally seek work where the best opportunities are available. The health sector must stimulate migration to unpopular areas, perhaps by establishing different payment plans and incentives. Infrastructure must also be overhauled in order to address these problems, which requires solutions from both the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Health. In my opinion, we have a sufficient number of general practitioners and we may soon have an excess in comparison with international parameters. This is potentially problematic as these doctors might soon face problems finding employment.

Q: Are doctors inside pharmacies affecting the sector?

A: While this vision may have been initially beneficial, the phenomenon is now beginning to have a negative impact on the health sector. In theory the practice is beneficial as it increases the availability of medical services, however the problem is that these small consulting rooms do not provide quality care and often sell only the medicines available at that specific pharmacy. The practice must be better regulated by the government and improvements must be made in order to ensure that they have all the necessary diagnostic equipment needed to provide quality care. This practice is also detrimental to general practitioners since, while it provides them with steady work, salaries are low.

Q: What are your main research priorities?

A: We carry more than 120 different research lines conducted by 280 researchers. Our research lines are on par with those of developed countries, and the only area for improvement is the transfer of knowledge. UNAM is currently prioritizing improvement of the technology transfer process from simply generating ideas to developing inventions and patents. To increase the probability of research projects reaching the market, we have created a division focused exclusively on the transfer of technology, which will allow researchers to send their patents to a centralized system to facilitate their incorporation into the market by making technologies available to companies who may wish to commercialize them.