Altruism or nationalism? Exploring global discourses of medical school regulation
(2022) Medical Education
Background: Although medical school regulation is ubiquitous, the extent to which it should be based on global principles is unclear. In 2010, the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG) announced that from 2023, overseas doctors would only be eligible for certification to practise in the United States if they had graduated from a medical school that was accredited by a ‘recognised’ agency. This policy empowered the World Federation for Medical Education (WFME) to create a recognition programme for regulatory agencies around the world, despite a lack of empirical evidence to support medical school regulation.
Methods: This study employs critical discourse analysis, drawing on the theoretical perspectives of Michel Foucault and Edward Said, to identify discourses that enabled this ‘globalising’ policy decision to take place. The dataset includes a series of 250 documents gathered around three key events: the Edinburgh declaration by WFME in 1988, the first set of global standards for medical schools by WFME in 2003 and the ECFMG ruling about medical school accreditation in 2010.
Findings: Two discourses, endorsement and modernisation, were dominant throughout this entire period and framed the move to globalise medical school regulation in terms of altruism and improving medical education worldwide. A discourse of resistance was present in the earlier period of this study but faded away as WFME aligned itself with ECFMG after 2010. Two further discourses, protection and control, emerged in the later period of this study and framed the ECFMG ruling in terms of nationalism and protecting American interests.
Discussion: This study proposes a new conceptualisation of the relationship between ECFMG and WFME in light of the apparently contradictory policy motivations of altruism and nationalism. It goes on to consider the implications of this association for the legitimacy of WFME as an organisation that represents all of the world’s medical schools.