The local Oriental medicine community recently faced a major setback, failing to have Oriental medical schools listed on the World Directory of Medical Schools (WDMS).
The World Federation of Medical Education (WFME) sets medical education criteria, evaluates whether a school’s medical education curriculum complies with the requirements, and grants certification as a medical education institution.
Despite Health and Welfare Minister Park Neung-hoo’s letter claiming that “an Oriental medicine practitioner works as a physician in Korea,” the international group for medical education did not recognize Korea’s Oriental medical colleges as medical schools.
However, the Oriental medicine community said they would revise their education system to adopt parts of medical schools’ curriculum and knock on the WDMS’ door again.
Choi Moon-seok, vice president of the Association of Korean Medicine, said the group worked with the Ministry of Health and Welfare to have Korean Oriental medical schools listed on WDMS.
His comments came at a debate on “Oriental Medicine and Global Healthcare Policies and Planning,” organized by the health and welfare ministry at Heojun Museum in Seoul, Wednesday.
“Health and welfare ministry wrote a letter that Oriental medical practitioners were working as physicians in Korea, but we couldn’t pass the listing review,” Choi said.
“The major reason for failing to be listed on the world directory of medical schools was that Oriental medicine practitioners couldn’t perform some of the medical activities that physicians normally do.”
He emphasized that the Oriental medicine community should make extra efforts to address the issue.
For Oriental medicine schools to be listed on WDMS, they will need to revise their curriculum, and the discussion is underway, according to Choi.
“Recently, we discussed with deans of Oriental medicine schools and shared a view that the schools should have compulsory basic medical education in the curriculum,” Choi said. “We also agreed that we should adopt a system where Oriental medical students can practice their skills at general hospitals.”
Choi went on to say that the environment is right for Oriental medicine practitioners to perform general medical practices.
“The Korea Medical Association said in a report that medical schools and Oriental medical schools share 75 percent of the learning objectives and a year of extra education for Oriental medicine practitioners will make them equal to physicians,” he added.
Choi criticized the government for taking an excessively conservative stance to prevent Oriental medicine practitioners from using medical devices. “The government should help solve this problem, rather than demanding us change the education at Oriental medicine schools,” he said.
At the forum, the health and ministry also presented a comprehensive plan to help the Oriental medicine community attract foreign patients and support their global activities.
Officials at Oriental medicine hospitals picked the issue of medical license as the biggest hurdle for Oriental medicine practitioners to go abroad.
Some argued that Oriental medicine practitioners should be able to apply for the U.S. Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE). The U.S. does not recognize Oriental medicine practitioners as physicians.
Song Ho-seob, vice president of the Society of Korean Medicine, said being able to apply for USMLE will allow Oriental medicine practitioners to obtain a physician’s status and benefit from insurance in case of medical error.
“Twenty-two Oriental medicine hospitals have entered foreign markets. If we want to raise the number to the government’s goal of 30 by 2025, we need the eligibility for USMLE,” Song said.
“An Oriental medicine practitioner is an MD (Doctor of Medicine) in Korea. But in the U.S., they have to get a license as an acupuncturist and become an acupuncturist. This is a waste of resources,” he added.
The health and welfare ministry said the Oriental medicine community should revise the education system first.
Yoo Hyun-jong, a director at the Oriental Medicine Industry Division of the health and welfare ministry, said medical licensing was related to the innovation of education. “We have to approach this issue in multiple phases, putting the licensing issue at the arrival point. First, there should be education through cooperation between Oriental medical schools and medical schools,” he said.
Seo Il-young, head of planning and coordination at Wonkwang University Hospital, said Oriental medicine practitioners need to take medical licensing exams in countries that recognize Oriental medical schools.
“Mongolia and China have Oriental medical schools. It will be easier to go into such countries first,” Seo added.
The health and welfare ministry’s “comprehensive measure on Oriental medicine and global healthcare” aims to expand the number of Oriental medicine hospitals overseas from 22 in 2017 to 30 in 2025. It also plans to raise the number of international patients visiting the country for Oriental medical service from 20,000 in 2017 to 35,000 in 2025.
The government is to spend more than 19.3 billion won into the project for five years from 2019 to 2023.
<© Korea Biomedical Review, All rights reserved.>