OPINION: Cross-border exchanges are good for global health

October 4, 2017 | Author: Dr. Andrew Padmos

Dear colleagues,

For almost a decade, the Royal College has been hosting the International Medical Education Leaders Forum (IMELF).

I am amazed at how quickly this meeting has become a cornerstone of our global interactions and by the broad and lasting impact it has had on participants.

What exactly is IMELF?

IMELF is an invitational meeting that brings together global thought leaders, influencers and decision-makers to talk about common issues and trends in medical education, to share ideas and to formulate solutions.

The way I see it:

  • Better standards.
  • Better education.
  • Better doctors.
  • Better health.

Or, as they say in Eastern Canada, “a rising tide floats all boats.”

Watch the videos throughout this message to hear participants explain in their own words how attending IMELF has impacted them.

Dr. Aboulsoud on why IMELF is not to be missed [0.51]


In 2017, for the first time, this meeting has expanded to regional settings so that colleagues in comparable jurisdictions can dive deeper into those issues closest to them. Launching the series this spring were IMELF-Latin America and IMELF-Hong Kong.

Quick links

Would you be interested in a high-level summary of this year’s parent meeting in Quebec City? (IMELF 2017 on October 18) Let me know: ceo@royalcollege.ca.

Sample discussion topics at past IMELF meetings:

Social accountabilityInter-professional and trans-professional educationEthicsSpecialization vs. generalizationMaintenance of competenceCompetency-based medical educationProfessionalismShaping health education to fit global health issues

Why go global? The case for regional IMELFs

As IMELF has grown in popularity, we noticed two challenges to the current format (i.e. hosted once a year in Canada ahead of ICRE):

  1. momentum and
  2. context.

By exporting the concept to international locations, the quality and frequency of dialogue and the understanding of the global-local dynamic is enriched.

Dr. Al Banyan on how IMELF impacted regional collaboration [0.43]


IMELF-Latin America (IMELF-LA): physician competence takes centre stage

Launching this new regional series was IMELF-LA. Top discussion themes included continuing professional development, maintenance of competence and recertification.

Stats on IMELF-LA

  • Held in Santiago, Chile, on May 23, 2017
  • Hosted by the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile (PUCC)
  • 44 attendees from five countries in the Americas
  • First time IMELF was held outside Canada

Dr. Ibañez on the benefits of IMELF for attendees [0.50]


At the meeting, Dr. Jorge Vergara, director of postgraduate studies at the PUCC, highlighted some of the challenges for maintenance of certification in Latin America.

For example, in

Brazil Certification must be achieved every five years and is based on a system of credits.
Mexico Specialists must demonstrate knowledge in their area of specialization against a set of criteria every five years. Failure to do so results in the need to write an exam in order to continue practising.
Argentina, Chile and Colombia Maintenance of certification is voluntary.

The general consensus in the room was that all jurisdictions should recognize the need for clear standards around lifelong learning throughout a physician’s career and the importance of demonstrating competence in one’s area of specialization. Formalizing standards for professional competence would lead to positive outcomes for patients.

IMELF-Hong Kong (IMELF-HKAM): setting the foundation for more collaboration

The IMELF format was next taken to Hong Kong on May 27 — a first foray into the region. While most attendees were from Hong Kong, there were also participants reported from Vietnam, Bangladesh and other nearby areas. Representatives from the Chinese Medical Doctor Association and Chinese Medical Board were also in attendance.

Dr. Viren Naik, FRCPC, director of Assessment at the Royal College (who attended the meeting with Royal College Past President, Dr. Kevin Imrie, FRCPC) had this to say about the experience:

“IMELF-HKAM was a tremendous success. Universally, all the guests were engaged and commented on the high level of open/frank discussion. The Hong Kong Academy of Medicine managed the logistics and goals impeccably – I have to give them top marks. There was great enthusiasm to host IMELF again in the region.”

Dr. Husain on the value of IMELF [0.45]


The final word: cross-border exchanges positively influence global health

Why do I feel strongly about the future of IMELF?

  • Sharing experiences in leadership in postgraduate medical education and residency training facilitates networking, collaboration and navigation around common pitfalls.
  • The diversity of perspectives facilitated by IMELF sparks innovation and new ways of thinking about issues.
  • Hosting regional meetings, alongside the parent forum, creates a growing association of medical education leaders that are responsive to their regions but also internationally.

I have long recognized that there is always going to be someone who knows more (and less) about a particular issue than me; asking questions and opening discussion almost always proves invaluable.

IMELF began as a forum to network with partners worldwide. In searching for the meeting’s long-term purpose, we discovered a broad and enthusiastic interest in hosting more frequent and tailored meetings to sustain dialogue and peer-to-peer, regional support.

In my view, IMELF is one important way we are making the global medical education community smaller, facilitating important discussion and upholding our Royal College’s values in relation to improved training and standards (and therefore better care) for all.


Andrew Padmos, BA, MD, FRCPC, FACP
Chief Executive Officer


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Bernice Capusten MD FRCPC | October 5, 2017
One world, one standard in healthcare and medical standards. Canada should be proud to be a leading partner.
Linda Bordeleau | October 4, 2017
Very good article and the maritime saying “a rising tide floats all boats" is so apropos! Looking forward to meeting past and new attendees in Quebec City October 18 at our next flagship IMELF meeting.