History of Medical School

The Establishment of the Medical School

The idea to establish a Medical School in Ghana was conceived in 1919 when the Korle-Bu Hospital was built by the then Governor of the Gold Coast, Sir Frederick Gordon Guggisberg.

It was however shelved when the Governor left office.  The idea was revived in 1951 when, at a joint request by Government and the University College of the Gold Coast, a delegation visited from the University of London to draw up a scheme and to specify staffing and facilities needed for a full-scale Medical School.  A year later, a Commission appointed by the Government to enquire into the health needs of the Gold Coast recommended an indefinite postponement of the establishment of the Medical School, a recommendation that was accepted by the Government in 1952.  In 1955 both the University College of the Gold Coast, and the Kumasi College of Technology were invited by Government to review the possibilities of establishing a Medical School.  The University College put forward a scheme for starting medical teaching on a minimal scale to be gradually built upon to the level envisaged by the 1951 London University delegation.   In line with this, the University College Council set up a committee in 1956 headed by Dr. D. M. Balme, principal of the College, to advice on alternative ways for establishing the Medical School.  This Committee recommended an annual intake of 20-25 students, and four pre-clinical departments at Legon, and the conversion of Korle-Bu hospital into a Teaching Hospital, with its own Management Board.

By 1960, no decision for implementation had been taken as it was then felt that Korle-Bu was not adequate for clinical training, and it would be more desirable for a new teaching hospital to be built at Legon.  The financial implications of this project compelled Government to seek assistance from the United States Government following which the US President sent Dr. Paul Connerlly to head a team to evaluate all previous efforts made.  This team recommended, among other things, the establishment of a National Medical and Health Training Centre, with the Medical School as the first constituent.  Following acceptance of the recommendations by the Government, a Medical School consultant team, under the USAID in 1962 recommended further that the National Medical and Health Training Centre should be established with the following components when fully developed.

  1. A Medical School
  2. A School of Nursing
  3. A Dental School
  4. A School of Medical Technology
  5. A Post Graduate School
  6. A Research Facilities Centre

 

An additional recommendation was that the Medical School should be financially autonomous with its own Council and be affiliated to the University of Ghana which will then award degrees of the University.

For a smooth implementation of an American system in the predominantly British environment, it was proposed that students from Sixth Form should undergo a two year premedical training in a number of subjects prior to the commencement of their full medical training.  Thus in October 1962, the first batch of 51 premedical students was admitted into the University of Ghana.  Barely one year after its commencement, however, the project was suddenly terminated because the American Dean had indicated that he could not get teachers for the Basic Sciences.  With the fate of the 51 students hanging in the balance, the then president of Ghana, Osagyefo Dr.Kwame Nkrumah, took a bold decision in February 1964 to establish a Medical School relying predominantly on local financial and manpower resources.  The feasibility of establishing a Medical School in Ghana was supported by the findings of a delegation consisting of Prof. A. A. Kwapong, Dr. C. O. Easmon and Dr. E. A. Badoe to the newly opened University of Lagos and the University of Ibadan Medical Schools.

On hindsight, the enforced exercise in self reliant development proved to be invaluable in the long term.

 

Growth and Development of the School

In October 1964 a group of 41 students started the Preclinical Training, with a small group of Ghanaian doctors as their lecturers. The curriculum was mainly Gross Anatomy and Histology, taught by Mr. J. K. M. Quartey, and assisted by Dr. F. N. L. Engmann and a number of surgeons and pathologists as part time lecturers.  From this modest beginning, other departments, namely physiology, started by Dr. H. H. Philips, and Biochemistry, started by Dr. B. Y. A. Andoh, were later added to constitute the Basic Sciences. Teaching started in paraclinical Departments in April, 1966 and in Clinical Departments in April, 1967.  The first batch of students graduated in June 1969.

 

Paraclinical Departments and Heads of Department consisted of the following:

Department of Pharmacology headed by Prof. R. Lewis and assisted by Dr. J. Blukoo Allotey

Department of Pathology headed by Prof. F. W. N. Laing

Department of Microbiology, headed by Dr. S. N. Afoakwa

Department of Surgery, headed by Prof. Charles Easmon

Department of Medicine, Headed by Prof. S. R. A. Dodu

Department of Paediatrics, headed by Dr. Yaw Asirifi

Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, headed by Prof. K. K. Bentsi-Enchill

Department of Community Health, headed by Dr. F. T. Sai

 

Thus, the School started almost entirely with Ghanaians. By the end of the first year, permission had been given to recruit expatriate staff to augment the efforts of the local staff.  By December 1968, the Ghana Medical School had become a semi-autonomous institution within the University of Ghana with academic functions similar to those of any faculty in the University.  Its new name then became the University of Ghana Medical School.  It was given its own Executive Council and a School Board.  It also had its own self accounting administration which reported to the School Board and the Executive Council.

As a faculty of the University, a Dean provided academic and administrative leadership, assisted by a Vice Dean,and an Executive Secretary.  The first Dean, Professor C.O. Easmon, a surgeon, served for 7 years.  He was followed in succession by Professors S.R.A. Dodu, H.H. Phillips, F.N.L. Engmann, E.Q. Archampong, S. K. Owusu. By 1998, the School had come of age and subsequent deans who were alumni of the School were Rev Prof.A.S. Ayettey, Prof.C.N.B. Tagoe and the current Dean, Prof. A. L. Lawson, who has been serving since November 2005. The first Executive Secretary of the School was Mr. C. K. Gbeho and Mrs. Deborah Boafoh was the first Administrative Secretary.  From the modest number of 8 (eight) departments, the School now operates through 17 (seventeen) departments, namely departments of Anatomy, Biochemistry, Physiology, Chemical Pathology, Haematology, Mircobiology, Pathology, Pharmacology Anaesthesia, Child Health, Community Health, Medicine and Therapeutics, Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Psychiatry, Radiology and Surgery.

 

It is our pride note that the School was started solely by a dedicated all-Ghanaian staff and continues to run almost entirely by Ghanaians with over 80% being alumni.

 The Curriculum of the School has been revised a number of times to reflect national health needs and prevailing trends in medical education.  In 1992, during one such revision, a BSc (Medical Science) degree was introduced to be awarded at the end of the Para-clinical Sciences course.  This degree now serves as a prerequisite for Clinical Training.  The implementation of the reduction in the length of training from seven and a half years to six, including one year premedical course.

Intake into the UGMS has seen a gradual increase over time.  Thus from an initial intake of 41 in 1964, the number rose to 53 in 1973 and 94 in 1999.  With the introduction of the new curriculum in the 2006/2007 academic year and the phasing out of the old, the Medical School found itself in a transitional period, hence the admission from two classes, and a significant increase in intake to 195.  The Medical School has over the years tried to maintain gender balance in its admissions process, with an intake of at least 25% of female students.  5% of foreign students, mainly from African countries without Medical Schools, were admitted in the early years but since 1999 foreign students from all over the world amounting to about 20% are being admitted. Currently, the total number of students in the UGMS stands at 802 (eight hundred and two) in the 2006-2007 academic year.

 The University of Ghana Medical School has in the past not only played a pivotal role in the establishment of other health related institutions within the University of Ghana, but it has also supported fledgling sister Medical School both within and outside the country.  In the late seventies, the first two batches of students from the School of Medical Sciences, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, completed their training at Korle-Bu, and lately the UGMS has been receiving students from the School of Medicine and Health Sciences, University for Development Studies.

Following the establishment of the College of Health Sciences in 1999, the UGMS became a constituent institution along with five others.  The Executive Council has now given way to a College Council that governs the College.

 

MISSION

The mission of the School is to produce competent medical practitioners, capable of providing service to meet the health needs of the nation and the global community, through excellence in teaching and learning, research and knowledge dissemination.

The primary objectives of the School since its inception have therefore been to train:-                                 

i.     A broad-based generalist practitioner with sufficient grounding for subsequent specialization

ii.  A practitioner functionally attuned to and therefore responding aptly to the needs and exigencies of his/her environment.  He/she shall attain internationally accepted standards.

iii. A practitioner who has participated in health care delivery while under instruction and therefore cognizant of the problems of health delivery and also an individual who accepts responsibility for self-learning and therefore readily responsive to the call for continuing education, and

iv.   An advocate for community health needs.

 

ACHIEVEMENTS

Doctor Turnover

Student enrolment made gains over the years with an initial intake of 41 in
1964, 53 in 1973 and 94 in 1999 increasing to about 150 by 2011. The female numbers have also increased from an initial intake of 3 to 71 females out of 154 in 2011,a percentage increase of about 2,367%. Since the first batch of 39 doctors qualified in 1969, the UGMS has graduated a cumulative total of 2,752doctors as at 2012. This is made up of 2,083 males and 669 females.

Specialist and Graduate Training

Since 1972, the UGMS has made significant contributions towards training of specialists in the country through its postgraduate programme, initially under the Royal Colleges of Britian, then the West African Postgraduate Medical College and recently the Ghana College of Physicians and Surgeons. Majority of graduates have gone through specialist training and are working in that capacity.

Role in the Development of other Medical Schools

The UGMS had in the past,  played a leading role in the establishment of other health related institutions within the University of Ghana, and indeed,  nurtured and supported sister medical schools in the country. The Development of the University of Ghana Dental School was initiated in 1974 and nurtured until it attained full faculty status in 1992. In 1979 the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research was established and we are all witnesses to the excellent work that the institution is doing. At the request of the Ministry of Health in 1994, the Medical School developed and ran courses leading to the award ofDiploma in Medical Laboratory Technology to upgrade the knowledge and expertise of laboratory technicians in the nation's hospitals.

The Medical School was called upon again in 1994 and 1998 by the Ministry of Health to assist with the establishment of the School of Public Health {for the higher degrees in the field of Public Health) and the School of Allied. Health Sciencefor the training of Laboratory Scientists, Physiotherapists, Radiographers and Medical and Dental Technologists and other Allied Health professionals. The Medical School mooted and nurtured the idea of bringing together all these institutions, with the Department of Nursing; now the School of Nursing to form the first College of the University of-Ghana, the College of Health Sciences.

In the late seventies, the first two batches of students from the School of Medical Sciences,
KNUST, completed their clinical training at UGMS. The UGMS have offeredstudents of the School of Medicine and Health Sciences, University of Development Studies, Tamale for remedial pre- and para-clinical and full clinical training leading to the award of UDS degrees. Faculty of UGMS continues to travel to Tamale, UDS to teach when training at UDS was localized in Tamale. More recently, lecturers of UGMS were instrumental in the development of the curricula of the University of 'Cape Coast Medical School and have been lecturing in the School since its inception.

In 2009, with the approval of the University, the UGMS introduced a new programme, the
Graduate Entry Medical Programme (GEMP) to give the opportunity to graduates in science who wish to pursue a career in medicine. It is an integrated four-year programme leading to the award of MB ChB Degree. To enhance clinical skills training clinical skills the School also established a clinical skills and simulation centre in 2009.

 

CHALLENGES

With increasing student numbers over the years, the School is faced with limited space for teaching and research.  The Basic Sciences Building which originally housed about 50 students in a class, is now housing about 200 students.  Hopefully, when the School of Biomedical Science and the University Teaching Hospital are built, this perennial problem will be solved.

 Government continues to provide major financial support for the school through its budgetary support and GET Fund allocation.  Levels continue to dwindle and this poses a big challenge to the School. The School is expected to generate funds internally to supplement government’s support. Foreign students’ fees currently form the backbone of the School’s internally generated funds. The need to continually maintain high academic standards to serve as an impetus to attract foreign students not only from the sub-region but also from other parts of Africa and the world at large therefore remains a formidable challenge.

In the mid 1980’s, during the deanship of Prof. E. Q. Archampong, there was severe brain drain of teaching staff which also affected student intake.  In spite of this, the School maintained its high standards by reducing student intake.

 The School plans to expand ultimately to Legon where an ultramodern medical centre will be built.  To achieve this objective requires massive infusion of funds from both internal and external sources.

 The School is working hard to attract young lecturers to add to or replace ageing staff.  Our efforts however are presently being hampered by the issue of salary disparities between the consultants in the Ministry of Health and our clinical faculty, creating the threat of ‘internal brain drain’.

 

MILESTONES/HIGHLIGHTS/LANDMARK EVENTS

  1. The UGMS celebrated its 25th anniversary in 1987 and its 40th anniversary in 2002.
  2. Between 2000 and 2006, the School was able to double its intake of students from 100 to 200.
  3. Provision of a modern high capacity medical library by the Government of Ghana.
  4. The UGMS conceived and helped establish the College of Health Sciences.

FUTURE GOALS

The UGMS is expected to expand to take in more students. In pursuance of this objective, the School hopes to embark on the following projects:

  1. The establishment of a School of Biomedical Sciences with the capability to train Preclinical students for all Medical School in the country.
  2. The establishment of a state-of-the-art Teaching Hospital at Legon that is expected to be a centre of excellence for the training of doctors as well as a leader in service delivery.
  3. The construction of skills and simulated laboratories to aid in coping with increased student numbers.
  4. To extend the use of peripheral hospitals for the training of clinical students
  5. To introduce distance learning and practice as soon as practicable.

The UGMS also plans to is expand its research portfolio