The Council of Portuguese Medical Schools issued a new statement which we now transcribe. The original document can be read here.
"We will strive for the continuation of as much as possible face-to-face medical education, within the particular conditions and reality of each Faculty, committing ourselves to discuss this matter with the country's political and sanitary authorities, so that medical students attending the clinical cycle can benefit from the protective measures that are proposed for all health professionals, namely with regard to the administration of the vaccine against COVID-19”.
“In addition to being a huge worldwide public health problem, the COVID-19 pandemic has represented a major challenge for the management and organization of university education, particularly medical education”.
Since its beginning, solutions have been found by the Council of Portuguese Medical Schools (CEMP) which, according to the various moments of the pandemic, have made it possible to balance the safety and efficiency binomial in the training of future Portuguese doctors. We realized that they should benefit from the protection strategies that are proposed for all health professionals and that a training process not conditioned by the evolution of the health crisis should be possible.
Our students are thus experiencing a public health situation that previous generations, like ours, had never gone through.
In addition to being a difficulty recognized by the entire population, this situation presents itself as an opportunity, which should be interpreted by all interlocutors as a learning model which, modulated in a progressive way in the evolution of the pandemic condition, is more-valuable for potential and future similar situations.
CEMP has always defended this proposal, which was successfully implemented, well evidenced by the low number of infections among medical students and the absence of infections caused by our students to patients admitted to university hospitals, maintaining teaching and, consequently, face-to-face assessment.
We value the medical act, seeing the doctor-patient relationship as the key to quality in medical education. We understand that, without feeling the individual reality of each patient regarding their fragility and physical and emotional suffering, doctors will only be able to treat the disease, but never the patient.
It is true that we made an effort to reinforce innovative educational models, such as the use of increasingly sophisticated medical simulation and some forms of remote teaching (such as online and offline lectures and patient consultations broadcasted through streaming to multiple students). However, albeit being an additional training benefit, they can never replace the one that places patients in the centre of the training process.
Accordingly, we will strive for the continuation of face-to-face medical education as much as possible, within the particular conditions and reality of each Faculty, committing ourselves to discuss it with the country's political and sanitary authorities, so that medical students attending clinical cycles can benefit from the protective measures that are proposed for all health professionals, namely with regard to the administration of the vaccine against COVID-19. In this regard, we have already requested a meeting with the Chair of the Task Force for the vaccination programme against COVID-19, which has been accepted, and whose date we await.
We also firmly reinforce that the example of their future colleagues - current doctors who stoically face the difficult task of treating patients in these difficult times - should be an inspiration for current students who, in a caring attitude, should behave, in terms of intention and model, according to what will soon be asked of them by society. We are sure that it will be so!
We want to train doctors who are all-embracing, supportive, humanistic in their work and scientifically very competent. In this context, we count on the future doctors trained in Portugal for this task and we can assure that everyone will be able to count on us, in this joint effort for the benefit of the health of the Portuguese".
Portugal, 16 January 2021
The Council of Portuguese Medical Schools
Henrique Cyrne Carvalho, Director of the Abel Salazar Institute of Biomedical Sciences
Altamiro da Costa Pereira, Director of the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Porto
Carlos Robalo Cordeiro, Director of the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Coimbra
Fausto J. Pinto, President of CEMP and Director of the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Lisbon
Isabel Palmeirim, Director of the Faculty of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences of the University of Algarve
Jaime Branco, Director of Nova Medical School | FCM of the New University of Lisbon
Miguel Castelo Branco, President of the Faculty of Health Sciences of the University of Beira Interior
Nuno Sousa, Director of the School of Medicine at the University of Minho