Image Credit: Source: Seoul National University Hospital

South Korea’s healthcare industry is one of the finest in the world. Supported by an advanced medical infrastructure, specialists in the country lead the way conducting large number of clinical trials and recording high survival rates for chronic diseases and best results in surgery and recovery.

With such positive outcomes, it isn’t surprising that medical specialists from around the world have been travelling to South Korea to learn the latest techniques. One of the most renowned surgeons to visit Korea to learn some of these methods was Dr James Eason, Director of the Methodist University Hospital Transplant Institute in the United States, who also performed the liver transplant on Apple founder Steve Jobs.

Medical Korea Academy (MKA), hosted by the Korea Health Industry Development Institute (KHIDI), is a training programme that aims to pass on the successful cutting-edge Korean medical knowledge and skills to foreign specialists.

Each year, many doctors from the US, Europe and the Middle East travel to Korea to participate in training programmes that various hospitals provide. Between 2007 and 2020, 1,392 medical professionals from 55 countries took part in the esteemed MKA programme. The top five countries to send the highest number of medical practitioners for the training programme were Saudi Arabia (314), Mongolia (250), Russia (146), China (116), and Kazakhstan (115).

For doctors here in the Gulf, Korea Medical Training Programme (KMTP) has been proving highly successful.

Following an agreement with Saudi Arabia in September 2013, the programme commenced in the region, which allowed physicians from the country to study in Korea. A total of 161 Saudi physicians have completed the programme between 2014 and 2020.

An agreement was later signed with the Ministry of Health, Kuwait, in May 2016, and with the Dubai Health Authority and Bahrain Defence Force-Royal Medical Services in 2018. The Oman Medical Specialty Board started sending medical professionals to Korea in 2019. A total of 311 Middle Eastern physicians and dentists are participating in the programme since 2014.

Thanks to all these agreements, medical professionals in the Middle East have an opportunity to delve into the latest medical advances available in Korea. In addition, they also have access to research activities, academic conferences and other insightful opportunities to learn about the cutting-edge care provided in the country.

Dr Adel Saeed Alghamdi, from Saudi Arabia, is one of the professionals from the region who visited Korea for specialisation.

“I decided to come to Korea because I knew that Korea has a high level of education in medical science and is scientifically and technologically advanced,” he says. “Also, because I came to Korea with my family, I was able to experience many aspects of Korean culture and environment. I have not only learned medical skills but also how to allocate difficult tasks, continuously update new medical information, and work as a team with new technology from the professors and my colleagues.”

As Dr Alghamdi discovered, the programme provides advanced training through selected hospitals so that medical staff from the Middle East can acquire clinical experience in their specialist field. Clinical specialities include everything from anaesthesiology and pain medicine diagnostics to radiology and neurosurgery.

To join the programme, participants can apply online and select their chosen department and hospital faculty. Visas are then organised and a pre-training programme follows, which consists of mandatory Korean language training, followed by observational training at a hospital. Candidates can then apply for hands-on medical practice and spend a year to two years partaking in clinical training at the hospital.

However, these prestigious training programmes are not just limited to doctors, with dentists also being catered for. KHIDI provides advanced dental training programmes at various training hospitals so that dentists from the Middle East can achieve dental clinical experience in their field of specialisation. It offers residency training in six specialties, which include conservative dentistry, oral and maxillofacial surgery, orthodontics, paediatric dentistry, periodontics and prosthodontics.

These training programmes are designed in a way to provide medical practitioners from other countries with the opportunity to deepen their medical knowledge and skills and better understand Korean medical services. Furthermore, by participating in these programmes offered at various medical institutions in Korea, medical practitioners looking to expand their knowledge can now bring back the latest state-of-the-art treatments to their own hospitals and regions.

And, with the Covid-19 pandemic having changed how people work and learn, there is also the opportunity to pick up some of the innovative techniques without leaving the country. MKA currently provides an e-class, offering online education for medical practitioners who want to learn more about the latest techniques, including surgical skills, such as pancreatic gastrointestinal and colorectal surgery.

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