The first private medical university in Nigeria, Pamo University of Medical Sciences, was last weekend opened in Port Harcourt to bridge the gap of inadequate manpower in the medical and healthcare sector. Davidson Iriekpen was there
With a colourful ceremony to install its Chancellor, General Abdulsalami Abubakar (rtd) at the weekend, Pamo University of Medical Sciences (PUMS) officially announced the formal opening of the institution in Port Harcourt, Rivers State. From every part of the country, dignitaries came to witness the history. The university, which is the first private medical university in Nigeria, is solely for producing graduates in the medical field.
The university, which is being promoted by former Governor of Rivers State and renowned medical doctor, Peter Odili and a few other stakeholders, was conceived and given birth to in order to bridge the gap of inadequate manpower in the medical and healthcare sector. It is well-equipped with modern facilities not only found in developed countries, but not available in most public institutions in the country. One of the advantages PUMS has is that it has an already-made teaching hospital – Pamo Specialist Hospital – established by Odili in the late 1980s. So as students are learning theoretically, they are also doing practicals in order to have full medical knowledge and experience.
The institution is fully residential with tasteful facilities to give the students adequate comfort. It also has a police post to provide it and the entire community with security.
Those who were there to witness the epoch event agreed that PUMS could not have come at a better time than now when medical education in the country is facing the challenges of access, quality and relevance. This is compounded by the inadequate number of medical and health professionals practicing in the country. Presently, the medical schools in the country cannot absorb the number of qualified candidates who are interested in pursuing courses in the medical field. Universities in Nigeria, whether private or public that offer medicine are distracted by other courses since they are not specialist institutions. This is where PUMS stands out.
According to statistics, Nigeria has only 35 per cent of her requirement for medical practitioners. This gloomy picture is worsened by the fact less than five per cent of qualified applicants can be admitted into degree programmes in medical and health sciences in all universities every year in the country on account of limited spaces.
Already, the university has commenced admission of students for courses such as anatomy, biochemistry, human nutrition and dietetics, pharmacology and physiology in the Faculty of Basic Medical Sciences, as well as Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery (MBBS) in the Faculty of Clinical Sciences. The institution is sited in a serene atmosphere in a large expanse of land off Aba Road in Port Harcourt.
Because of the crises that have characterised public and most private universities in the country, PUMS in order to ensure that it achieves its core mandate of producing quality medical doctors and personnel in the country, has set the rules for incoming students. These rules, the management of the school has promised, it won’t compromise.
First, it said the admission process would strictly be based on merit and that students must be resident on campus. It added that for students to concentrate on their studies and not unnecessarily show off their background, they would not be allowed to use cars on campus; they will not be free to stroll in and out of campus at will. It warned that there would be absolute zero tolerance for cultism and related vices for both staff and students, even visitors, parents and guardians would not be allowed to stroll in and out of campus at will.
The school added that students would not be allowed to expose their bodies indecently, as there would be dress code for lectures and official functions for both students and officials.
Perhaps the high point of the occasion marking the formal opening of the institution was the investiture of Abdulsalami as the chancellor. Speaking, the former Head of State said the university could not have come at a better time than now to fill the gap left by most institutions in the country. He decried the inability of most Nigerian public universities to provide standard medical-related programmes, promising that PUMS would strive to address all the challenges facing medical education and practice in the country as it aims to achieve global excellence in terms of teaching, research and community services.
Abdulsalami said the university will produce graduates in different fields of medicine who are not only competent in their profession, but also entrepreneurial, ICT driven and that are worthy in character and learning.
He listed inadequate number of qualified medical practitioners and the rising migration of the few well-qualified medical practitioner as part of the reasons for medical tourism with billions of naira “spent annually in foreign countries to treat ailments which could have been easily treated in Nigeria if there are adequately qualified doctors in the country.”
He also lamented the increasing out-flow of students seeking tertiary medical education in neighbouring African countries such as Ghana, Uganda and Sudan and other countries outside the continent with disastrous consequences.
The former military Head of State, who used the opportunity to call on the National Universities Commission (NUC) to as a matter of urgency, review the requirement for the establishment of private universities in the country, said such review should take cognisance of the nature of mono-discipline and city-based institutions like PUMS.
He called on the federal government to re-examine its role and responsibilities to private educational institutions especially at tertiary level by ensuring that the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund) works out modalities of extending support to privately-owned educational institutions as part of its responsibility in financing education in the country.
“The inability of our universities to meet up with the increasing demand for placement is more pronounced in the field of medicine and medical related programmes”, while recent reports “have shown that less than five per cent of qualified candidates are able to gain admission into medical programmes in all Nigerian universities. The last Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria examination of foreign trained doctors saw 680 doctors sitting for the examination. The sad aspect of this however is the monumental failure rate of the foreign trained doctors in the medical and dental council professional qualifying examination as witnessed in the last examination,” he said.
“Recent reports have shown that less than five per cent of qualified candidates are able to gain admission into medical programmes in all Nigerian universities. PUMS will strive to address all these challenges as it aims to achieve global excellence in terms of teaching, research and community services. This university is set to produce graduates in different fields of medicine who are not only competent in their professional but also entrepreneurial, ICT driven and that are worthy in character and learning,” he added.
Speaking at the occasion, the Pro-Chancellor of PUMS, Dr. Odili thanked God, President Muhammadu Buhari and his government and the Executive Secretary of the NUC, Prof. Abubakar Rasheed, for the successful commencement of activities at the university. He said the institution has set a record of being the university that took the shortest time to plan and establish. He added that PUMS will produce doctors and medical personnel that would make a difference towards their patients, and tackle the challenge of poor medical education in the country.
According to him, “the management of PUMS is determined to ensure that the vision and mission of founding an institution that will make a difference and set a new tone in medical education and healthcare delivery are achieved and sustained. The products of PUMS will be different and they will stand out in a disciplined way they will apply their knowledge in the care of their patients. They will be humane and empathetic and treat their patients with dignity.”
The highest point of the day was when the Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, mounted the podium. First, he applauded Odili for deeming it fit to establish a medical university in the state. He said with the addition of PUMS to the Faculty of Medicine recently introduced at the state university, the state would become a hub for medical training and certification of doctors in no distant time.
The governor announced the sum of N500 million as take-off grant to the university. He also pledged to sponsor 100 indigent students of the state yearly in the school in the next five years.
He said: “During our campaign, we promised to address the challenge of health care and medical personnel in the state. To run our healthcare programmes, we established for the first time Faculty of Medicine in Rivers State University. The addition of PAMO University of Medical Sciences into the state will expand opportunities for our young ones to qualify as professionals in any medical field of their passion and contribute to the state educational system.
“With two Faculties of Medical Sciences in two universities, Rivers State will soon become a medical hub for training and certification of medical doctors and health professionals in Nigeria and beyond. We are glad to have PUMS as beneficiaries of this new partnership and to demonstrate our commitment, therefore Rivers State Government has approved a grant of N500 million to support the development of the university.”
Dignitaries, who witnessed the event were: Niger State, Alhaji Abubakar Sani Bello; former Kano State Governor, Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso; minister of education, judges from the Supreme Court, Appeal Court and High Court, judges and several important personalities from the National Assembly.