How Are We Going to Spend the Millions That Go to Financing the 1st Faculty of Medicine?
Discussions between the Association of Deans of Faculties of Medicine in the Czech Republic and representatives of the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Health have born some practical results. A ten-year programme of additional support to medical faculties by almost 7 billion CZK is an important part of addressing our long-term demographic problem, i.e. the fact that the number of physicians who are retiring is higher than the number of graduates from medical schools. Moreover, this solution is based on a partnership, since in the past several years, we have been under pressure to accept more students, but no additional finances were provided.
For our faculty, this programme represents about 20 percent extra on the study budget. It will start this year, with further increase in two years, by which time we should be able to admit 15 percent more students, and keep on doing so, so that the full impact of the programme will be felt only in six years. People who are interested in further facts regarding our faculty should from time to time browse through our faculty bulleting Jednička (for instance the past issue with info graphics) … anyway, those people will be aware of the fact that even so, we will not even approach the student numbers seen at the 1st Faculty of Medicine in the past, when it educated ‘masses of students’. Those people, meanwhile, who are still trying to ‘appeal to the masses’, for whatever reason, starting from self-pity all the way to active marketing, those people can’t be helped.
70% of personnel costs should be spent on salaries
What is the programme of support to medical faculties going to mean for their everyday functioning? Let us start from the pleasant aspects. Subsidies per student will start approaching the real costs of their education and as a result, the ‘school’ salaries will be nearly as high as ‘hospital’ salaries. Seventy percent of the fund will be distributed, after payments to the set salary costs, to the individual institutes depending on the number of students and number of teaching hours. Thirty percent of the sum will be dedicated to mostly quartal bonuses at institutes, bonuses to heads of departments, and in part also to financing the work of the Dean’s Office related to the increased student numbers.
Heads of departments matter
In what way? Especially heads of departments and guarantors of subjects will have to play a very active role, both in terms of creativity and teaching guidance, and in terms of managerial skills. A head of department must know who in his or her team should be awarded and what for. A head of department must know how many hours a week a particular teacher is needed and how much the teacher can be paid. And salaries for teachers should reflect not only the time spent teaching but also their other work for the faculty, university, and science, things starting from attendance of gowned ceremonies and helping with Open Doors Days and other faculty events all the way to being in charge of elective subjects. This is not the place to share urban legends which demonstrate how salaries should not be approached, which we do sometimes encounter during the calculation of salaries (and recently, we tend to have 14 salaries a year). But just as an example, statements such as ‘Aha, I forgot to distribute the bonuses’, or even ‘You know what, Mrs. XYZ from the Dean’s Office will allocate it to them according to their work time load anyway’ are not as rare as they ought to be.
There is demand for external teaching facilities
Guarantors of subjects must seek to actively create conditions for high-quality education and aim to provide sufficient, especially clinical, basis in terms of its concept, capacity, and personnel arrangements. This, however, also opens more options of teaching for the faculty at external institutions. This is a concept that has been tried by other faculties of medicine as well. We cannot just wait, apathetically try to figure out how many students can fit into the corridor of the General University Hospital and ponder about what someone else could or should do about it. It will have to support heads of institutes who are active, those who can put together a team of teachers, those who care not only for the development of their particular area of specialisation but also about the prosperity of the faculty as a whole.
The positive atmosphere is felt also by students
In connection with the abovementioned programme, we should also mention our philosophy of planned quarterly bonuses. Why do some institutes find it chronically difficult to attract habilitated scholars or successful doctoral students? Let us admit that the opposite extreme can also be sometimes difficult to manage, but a sound academic base clearly reflects on the reputation of the head of an institute. How important in academic medicine are the individual departments and institutes? We find some that some have not had a single grant proposed with the faculty for a number of years (current data are accessible on our faculty website) and their local culture clearly indicates that both students and science are perceived as hindrance to their work. It is up to the institute’s head to direct the climate of his or her institute, to decide whether it would function as a regional hospital where some students must be occasionally tolerated and ‘science’ is seen as a mantra for acquiring academic degrees, degrees which in their view rest on ‘our experience with’ or, even worse, on signing something one does not even read but must report in order to fulfil some quota. The institute’s head can also try his or her best to turn an institution into a top, internationally competitive, respected medical establishment. It is not even surprising that positive atmosphere at institutes that work well is, according to students’ evaluation, intuitively perceived by them as well.
A chance for development for everyone!
So, all in all, we have an interesting opportunity for further development. A demanding one, too. It will demand a lot of energy from the heads of institutes who want to further their area of science. It is a chance for teachers in their teams who do not teach just because that is what’s done at the faculty but because they feel responsible for the next generation of medical professionals and on top of that like teaching. It is a chance for us, academics, who should give up the tunnel vision that allows us to see only our particular interests and widen our perspective so as to start fulfilling the full mission of a medical faculty. And it is also a change for students, who should learn to work with facts, not just impressions. It is a chance for all of us to stop hiding behind the binocular vision of ‘us’ versus ‘they’ and start discussing that needs to be done. These are no easy tasks, but we should realise that the money is already coming, and we have time to make our departments and institutions more or less ready for students. But especially, that all of this is crucial for further successful functioning of our Number One!
Aleksi Šedo, Dean of the 1st Faculty of Medicine