From a Medical Student Wish to Reality at AFMC
Many of us remember the hours spent preparing paperwork for our clinical electives. So many forms, similar but yet all different, sent to so many different places! The whole thing taking hours and hours of precious time that could have been much better spent.
In 2010 Jonathan DellaVedova, as President of the Canadian Federation of Medical Students (CFMS), stood up and told the undergraduate medical education Deans, during the Canadian Conference on Medical Education, that medical students just couldn’t stand it anymore. He asked them to please consider developing a centralized portal so that students could have a safe and secure one-stop-shop where they could keep all their electives documents that then could be provided to the appropriate schools at the student’s request. I know this because I was there as the undergrad dean for the University of Ottawa at the time. The undergrad deans brought the request to the Association of Faculties of Medicine of Canada board (17 deans and 4 public members), and strongly advocated on their behalf. As any Board worth its name should rightly do, they said – show us the business case!
By 2012 the plan was in place to develop the AFMC student portal using baseline funds borrowed from each of our 17 faculties of medicine. Over the next few years the AFMC would be transformed into a service-providing organization having a common legal agreement with each of the 17 medical schools, would become Personal Card Information (PCI) compliant, would have financial processes in place for fee payments, would be able to create and examine complex business processes, be able to respond to the most stringent confidentiality at security systems, and have a helpdesk for students and faculties. We took schools that were still paper-based to schools that had a pre-established complex electronic electives application system, as well as schools that had a provincial system already in place, and made it work with a Pan-Canadian portal.
None of us clearly understood, at the onset of this project, how complex it would be. It literally took a village of elective coordinators and directors, undergrad deans and IT specialists from our faculties as well as lots of learner leaders supporting the AFMC staff to make this Medical Student Wish come true. And now, since February 2017, students can apply to any of our 17 schools. Today more than 11,000 students have submitted over 26,000 applications.
And our students wanted more. In 2015 at the annual Canadian Federation of Medical Students meeting, Past President Bryce Durafourt asked, during my presentation to the delegates, if the AFMC could create a common immunization form to, again, simplify the work required for students. I knew this would be a challenge…but lo and behold! the common form was approved in January 2017, thanks to the tireless dedication of our faculty experts.
Another new benefit from our pan-Canadian portal is that we can now generate and provide data to each faculty regarding their elective program. For many schools, they were seeing this data for the first time. We also provided a national report so that they can have national benchmark data. Did you know that last year, our schools managed 9,439 Canadian and 2,305 international visiting elective requests? Did you know that over 80% of the time Canadian students received an Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery or Orthopedic Surgery elective when they requested these specialties as a first choice?
I am so proud that the AFMC has been able to make good on our promise to support students in their electives process. We will endeavour to continue to find ways to improve this service. We look forward to finding new ways to support our learners and faculties.