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New courses address shortage of Swiss docs

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New courses address shortage of Swiss docs
EPFL is collaborating with the universities of Lausanne and Geneva. Photo: Alain Herzog
13:17 CEST+02:00
Higher education institutions across Switzerland are creating new access courses to medicine to address the shortage of doctors in the country.

The universities of Geneva and Lausanne are working with the federal institute of technology in Lausanne, EPFL, to devise a one-year bachelor course in ‘pre-medicine’ which will allow students with scientific and engineering degrees the chance to pursue medical studies, Swiss media has reported.

A spokeswoman for EPFL confirmed to agency News Express that the three institutions were collaborating, without giving further details.

However Lausanne university rector Dominique Arlettaz confirmed the trio had started to develop a new course, aiming for its first intake in 2017, which will equip some 40 students from diverse scientific backgrounds with the necessary knowledge to go on to study for a master's in medicine.

This pre-medicine bachelor’s course will be open to students from any origin, but it’s expected that at least half will come from within EPFL.

“It’s about fighting against the shortage of doctors and diversifying the origin of our doctors,” Arlettaz told News Express.

“In effect, they won’t all have the same qualifications.”

For the past three years an experimental access course has already been available for a very small number of students, but the new bachelor’s will increase that to 40, reported newspaper Le Temps.

Speaking to the paper, Jean Daniel Tissot, head of the faculty of biology and medicine at Lausanne University said: “These 40 extra doctors will be above all engineer-doctors orientated towards high-tech medicine, research and engineering, for example in radiology or nuclear medicine.” 

The course is part of a project initiated by five medical faculties around the country to increase the total number of places offered on master's courses to 220 by 2019, doubling the number offered a decade previously.

Twenty extra master's places will be offered by Lausanne university, and ten by Geneva, with discussions underway for the remaining ten places.

The project chimes with the federal government’s desire to address the shortage of doctors in Switzerland.

The government estimates that Switzerland requires between 1,200 and 1,300 new doctors annually; that’s 40 percent more than the 700 to 800 students completing medical training each year.

According to Le Temps, the government feels that “the number of doctors trained in Switzerland doesn’t cover the needs of the health system, which relies heavily on qualified foreigners”.  

To address this, in June it unveiled a new 100 million-franc federal programme aiming to encourage the training of new doctors, research and innovation.

The promise of funding has sparked institutions across the country into action.

Switzerland’s other federal technology institute, ETH Zurich, has already announced the creation of a new bachelor’s in medicine, from 2017.

On Tuesday the authorities in Fribourg approved the creation of a new master's in medicine at the University of Fribourg with the accent on family medicine, reported Neue Zürcher Zeitung.

Universities in St Gallen, Lucerne and Ticino are also developing their own medical studies programmes.

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