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Cyberspace medical school to launch
IVIMEDS finds backing, better access for rural students

Edinburgh (pte031/17.02.2003/13:04) - An international virtual medical school (IVIMEDS) headed by the University of Dundee has found the backing it needs to launch its first online classes by 2004.

Up to 50 leading medical schools, including Harvard Medical School, have agreed to support the project.

Professor Ronald Harden of the University of Dundee presented the plan to train doctors over the Internet at the recent World eLearning Conference in Edinburgh The organisers spoke of a 'watershed moment' for the virtual school.

The concept of IVIMEDS is not to replace the various national medical schools, but to complement traditional methods of teaching. It should mainly provide the earlier years of a medical curriculum (2 years of a 4-year course or 3 years of a 5-year course) with an emphasis on distance learning delivered over the Internet.

Proponents of the cyberspace medical school say it can reduce the substantive teaching workload of medicine lecturers, as well as offer a highly flexible curriculum.

But the main feature of IVIMEDS is that it should give students in developing or rural areas direct access to medical experts. Through lectures and demonstrations via video link, students can even test their skills on virtual patients - provided they have access to the Internet. This could reduce the problem of students in rural areas having to move to the cities to establish their medical careers.

In a University of Dundee press release Professor Harden said: "It is no exaggeration to say that announcing the go-ahead of the international virtual medical school constitutes a historic moment for global medical education. In 10 years, when people look back at how health professionals trained across the world, the launching of IVIMEDS will be seen as a watershed."

Harden has called the project a "cost effective answer to a range of problems including shortage of trained doctors, widening access to the profession across cultural and academic boundaries and, for rural communities, conquering the 'tyranny of distance' that discourages those with potential from going away to train."

IVIMEDS is to be funded through pledges from medical schools, government agencies and charitable trusts and foundations. According to TV Meets the Web, total funding for the project is estimated at 3.75m euros.

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