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Trailblazing Community-Based Medical Education: AdZU–SOM Celebrates Silver Jubileetes its 25th Anniversary



By: Rosen Gabriel Garcia, The Beacon Publications Correspondent

Challenges faced head-on, achievements unlocked, and aspirations carved on stone – two decades and a half later, the Ateneo de Zamboanga University School of Medicine reach for greater heights in the celebration of its silver jubilee.

The Unorthodox Meets the Skeptic

Since its founding in 1994, the AdZU–SOM has been under scrutiny by the medical community here and elsewhere due to its unorthodox curriculum. Unlike regular medical schools that follow the conventional curriculum, SOM delved deeper into the medical field by introducing a Community-Based Learning (CBL) approach, where learning is student-lead, and students immerse in communities to assess and work with locals, addressing the health problems of the people and communities in Western Mindanao.

Though met with skepticism during its inception, the AdZU-SOM’s unconventional way of learning found its niche in medical education and made its mark through its excellent performance in the boards, with some graduates topping the Physician Licensure Exam (PLE). In the recent March 2019 PLE, AdZU-SOM earned a 91. 49% over-all passing rate, and the batch rate at 93.48%.

Taking a bow in the International Scene

Last year, in March 2018, the AdZU-School of Medicine’s strong belief “against all odds” in the Community-based Learning curriculum paid off and earned for the School an international recognition from the Association of Faculties of Medicine of Canada (AFMC).

Awarded with the Charles Boelen International Social Accountability Award, AdZU was recognized for its commitment to health reforms in medical education. SOM Dean Fortunato Cristobal explains that social accountability among medical schools, as defined by Boelen (after whom the award was named) and Heck, means producing highly competent professionals equipped to respond to the changing challenges of healthcare through education, research, and service which is felt by the communities served. To date, 96% of its licensed graduates serve in the country, with over 80% caring for communities in the peripheries of Western Mindanao.

Dr. Cicero Shean Ipanto, an alumnus of Ateneo’s Medical School, notes that the unorthodox curriculum of AdZU-SOM which has attracted more attention internationally than it did locally, is a success in itself. He shares his aspiration for the School as producing more graduates who are socially engaged and ready to serve the community, as envisioned when it was founded 25 years ago.

Coming together for the Silver Jubilee

With 25 special years behind it, AdZU–SOM has lined up various activities for the three-day celebration of its silver anniversary, participated in by AdZU–SOM students, faculty, administrators, and alumni.

The festivities began yesterday morning, July 17, 2019, with a citywide motorcade followed by the opening ceremonies held at the Ateneo de Zamboanga, University Lantaka Campus, highlighted by an extemporaneous speaking contest and debate about health issues. Succeeding events include a testimonial symposium on medical experiences and a fellowship party. A gala dinner cum recognition ceremonies of the pioneer board of trustees of the Zamboanga Medical School Foundation, pioneer partners and stakeholders, pioneer faculty, and alumni who excelled in their respective line of service and contributed to health promotion and disease prevention will conclude the commemoration of AdZU – SOM’s 25th year anniversary. More than celebrating milestones, the AdZU School of Medicine sees the anniversary as a gathering of old friends, former faculty/mentors, and former classmates – a fellowship of sorts– an encounter worth celebrating.