Correction appended July 10.
In a consolidated letter dated June 15 and addressed to McGill’s Principal and Vice-Chancellor Suzanne Fortier, the Committee on Accreditation of Canadian Medical Schools (CACMS) and the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME) announced their decision to put McGill’s undergraduate medicine program on probation.
“Probation is an action reflecting the summative judgment that a medical education program is not in substantial compliance with accreditation standards,” says the letter. However, even on probation, the medical program has not lost its accreditation.
In order for the program to be taken off probation, the faculty needs to address the various problems raised in the consolidated letter by 2017.
“It’s certainly disappointing,” Dean of Medicine David Eidelman told The Daily. “We did not expect to have this much difficulty, but we had the visit in February, and at the end of that visit it was clear that there were more difficulties than we expected.”
The faculty received preliminary feedback on the accreditation visit in April and an Undergraduate Medical Education (UGME) Accreditation Task Force was “immediately established.”
“We are going to have a visit from the accrediting body in – probably – September to help make sure we’re on track. A detailed action plan would be submitted in December. Assuming that action plan is accepted, which usually would be in these conditions, we would have until 2017 to correct all the problems. Although I personally would like to see most, if not all, of the problems corrected by December,” Eidelman continued.
Inadequate instruction in women’s health and family and domestic violence
One of the findings in the report states that “over the past 5 years, on the [Canadian Graduation Questionnaire], students have reported inadequate instruction in women’s health (range 23.9% to 24.5%) and family and domestic violence (range 51.5% to 59.1%).” In addition, “there has been no discussion on this particular topic at the new curriculum executive level.”
“Over the past 5 years, on the [Canadian Graduation Questionnaire], students have reported inadequate instruction in women’s health (range 23.9% to 24.5%) and family and domestic violence (range 51.5% to 59.1%).”
Speaking to The Daily, Medicine Student Senator David Benrimoh admitted that this is an issue he has observed.
“We talk about [sexual assault] as a thing that happens. We talk about it as being a big part of why a lot of people have bad health outcomes – we know that it exists. But the actual sort of operational way of going about conducting an interview that is focused on sexual assault, that’s focused on domestic abuse […] we don’t get a lot of that,” Benrimoh said.
Doulia Hamad, president of Medical Students’ Society of McGill (MSS) explained that there is a student initiated task force whose mandate it is to discuss sexual health and sexuality.
“[It] has a very very broad mandate. We could talk about queer issues, LGBT issues, […] women’s health and intimate partner violence – it’s a very very broad range of topics,” Hamad told The Daily.
Inadequate documentation and communication
According to Eidelman, most of the program’s shortcomings stem from inadequate communication and documentation.
“One thing I have heard from students is that we didn’t have a systematic way of reporting back to them the things that we did. So students concluded that they had made complaints and nobody did anything about it,” Eidelman said.
“Oftentimes we have a lot of [the] meat of it – you know, the content is there, and the actions are happening. They’re not documented well, they’re not communicated well, so [a] lot of the time there are discrepancies because of that,” Hamad told The Daily.
According to Hamad, an example of inadequate documentation would be the minutes taken at various faculty committees that oversee undergraduate medical education, which were not detailed or precise enough.
“We have to document that we’re doing it,” Eidelman said. “Because, for accreditation, we could be doing the best thing in the world; if we don’t put it in our documents, and it doesn’t get to the eyes of the visitors, it’s as if it never happened.”
“For accreditation, we could be doing the best thing in the world; if we don’t put it in our documents, and it doesn’t get to the eyes of the visitors, it’s as if it never happened.”
“Students are taking it seriously, obviously,” Hamad told The Daily. “Most of them have been quite calm and have greeted the news with a sober face, but [also] with hope and confidence that the faculty is going to see that we don’t lose our accreditation and that we bridge all the issues by 2017.”
“I think a lot of the things that were named in the accreditation report echo problems that the students were already either working to deal with or working to solve.”
“It’s important to put this into context. If you look at what we actually have to fix – it’s very fixable. This is not a permanent thing, or I don’t think we’re in any danger of losing our ability to grant degrees. So when it comes to me as a student, forgetting even as a student leader or a senator, I’m not concerned that I’m not going to get my medical degree,” Benrimoh said.
Benrimoh added, “[Students] believe that the media reports in the [Montreal] Gazette have been woefully inaccurate, that they’ve blown things out of proportion.”
“In the media, a few people are saying that it’s really a huge hit for McGill […] and I think that those comments are a little bit unfair, because many other schools have been on probation from accreditation or have been warned with probation,” said Hamad.
“We know that it’s a very serious situation, and we’re not trying to excuse it. We have many ways to explain this situation, but we know that it’s our duty as medical students and future physicians to really be part of the solution so that we can be a great medical school and serve our patients.”
A previous version of this article stated that McGill’s medicine program was put on probation. In fact, it was only McGill’s undergraduate medicine program that was put on probation. The Daily regrets the error.