Education at prestigious centres is valuable

BMJ 1995; 310 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.310.6979.596b (Published 04 March 1995) Cite this as: BMJ 1995;310:596
  1. B S Drasar
  1. Acting dean London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London WC1E 7HT

    EDITOR,—Several questions arising in Fiona Godlee's article on World Health Organisation fellowships need to be addressed.1 These include the value of education at prestigious centres (of which the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine is a leading example), the role of externally imposed objectives in education, and the WHO's priorities. Examination of the WHO may be justified, but the more general conclusions do not follow.

    Both young students and professionals in midcareer come to prestigious centres because they obtain value for money. At the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine one in five overseas students finance their own studies. The school enables students to build a one year course to complete a unique training related to their professional objectives. For established professionals this is a well proved mechanism for intellectual refurbishment and development. To obtain such programmes elsewhere requires infrastructural and academic investment.

    Godlee discusses training objectives in terms of the WHO's objectives for the programme and the training needs of the country concerned. An equal component must be the needs and objectives of the students. Our students who were interviewed by Professor Stuart MacLeod commended their training for its relevance to research in the developing world. The students are professionals who are aware of the health agendas in their country. To imply that objectives should be imposed on them is to devalue their contribution to the development of objectives within the health agenda. The discredited model of training described in Godlee's article is not one that I recognise.

    The number of overseas students educated each year at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine is greater than that on the total programme of Inclen, the international clinical epidemiology network. This year students from 86 countries are studying at the school, and this provides an opportunity for them to put their country's problems in an international context. They become part of the wider international group of alumni of the school and can network among colleagues, sharing related experiences.

    Our aim is to enhance the status of self sustaining critical thinkers, ensuring that they can maintain academic and managerial activity without needing to depend on northern institutions. The test is not the extent to which they are supported but the extent to which they can enable others to function.


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