Apr 15 , 2023

The examination that qualifies medical professionals to practice in the US will start to be given in Addis Abeba after three months. The move will significantly decrease the number of medicos that travel to neighbouring countries to sit for the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE).

Applicants were taking the step one and two exams in Nairobi, Kenya or Cairo, Egypt, hoping to get a license to practice medicine in the US.

According to Daniel GebreMikael (MD), the senior advisor at the Ministry of Health, adopting the program provides general practitioners ease of access, saving extra hustle required to seat for the exam including foreign currency shortage.

Officials at the Ministry of Health, People to People (P2P) non-governmental and non-profit organisation and Addis Abeba University Institute of Educational Research signed a memorandum of understanding one week ago to facilitate the process for the Institute to be accredited.

The exam venue is expected to be in Addis Abeba University, Institute of Educational Research.

According to Belay Hagos (PhD), director and chief supervisor, the Institute is purchasing 120 Core i9 desktops to begin the test.

"The program is set to begin until next budget year," said Belay.

Founded in 1999, People to People (P2P) focuses on improving healthcare and reducing the spread of diseases, particularly in Ethiopia. According to Belay, it is tasked with giving technical support and bridging networks worldwide.

The Institute offers two local exams, the Graduate Admission Test and Health Professionals Competence Assessment & License Examination and international exams such as the Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA), International English Language Testing System (IELTS), Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOFEL), Graduate School Entrance (GRE) and Scholastic Aptitude (SAT).

Bemnet Ayenew (MD) graduated from Jimma University school of Medicine in September 2021. She spent five months researching a better career advancement while waiting for her Certificate of Competency (COC).

"That was when I decided to take USMLE," said Bemnet.

She flew out to Nairobi to take the step one examination in December 2022. The step one examination is tailored to assess the understanding of science concepts with emphasis on principles and mechanisms underlying health, disease, and modes of therapy that are basic to the practice of medicine.

According to Bemnet, the accommodation and transportation fees were additional burdens sprained upon her besides worrying about scoring good grades.

She claims to have spent about 300 dollars for five nights' accommodation and 30,000 Br roundtrip air tickets. She is pleased with the move made by the Ministry to commence the exam centres amidst her preparation for the second step.

"It alleviates the psychological burden affecting a good score," Bemnet told Fortune.

The average annual salary of medical doctors in the US stands around 165,366 dollars, while they are paid close to 185 dollars in Ethiopia.

Data from the manual of Ethiopian medical history shows that more than half of the physicians left the country between 1987 and 2006. The number is estimated to have grown higher through the years although considered to be lower than in other countries.

There are 13,117 general practitioners, specialists and subspecialists in the country and up to 2,000 medical students become general practitioners annually.

Demelash Gezahegn (MD) has gotten his medical degree seven years ago. He applauds the decision to launch exam centres in the heart of the city and hopes it will be an alternative for many physicians that are left out of employment.

The budget constraints to hire professionals and insufficient participation of private investors are cited as major challenges for new graduates to find jobs.

Established 60 years ago, Ethiopian Medical Association have 5,000 medical doctors as its members.

Tegebar Yigzaw (MD), president of the Association believes it is a relief for medical professionals who were subjected to spending thousands for accommodation. He fears that it will blast the door of professional migration wide open, broadening the doctor-to-patient ratio gap that reads in thousands.

"It has its benefits and drawbacks," said Tegebar.

PUBLISHED ON Apr 15,2023 [ VOL 24 , NO 1198]

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