Transformative Education
for Health Professionals

Building the “Educational Home”: Staying Connected to Alumni with MEPI Graduate Tracking in Ghana

Rachel Deussom, Michael Drane, Rebecca Bailey, Zohray Talib, Rose Mwangi, Joslin Dogbe, Moses Simuyemba

In countries with severe health workforce shortages, accurate health workforce information is needed to achieve health goals, including for HIV and AIDS, family planning, and maternal and child health. The PEPFAR Medical Education Partnership Initiative (MEPI) supports medical schools in African countries to increase the capacity and quality of medical education, improve graduate retention, and promote regionally relevant research.

 

The MEPI Connect graduate tracking software is helping African medical schools to remain connected with their graduates. Tracking allows institutions to assess the effectiveness of strategies to retain graduates at posts in underserved areas. 

Full project description: 

The concept of the “educational home” for 21st century health professionals highlights the emerging and essential need for educational institutions to stay connected with their graduates. This is particularly important where there are severe health workforce shortages. A well-trained, diverse health workforce is vital to meet the Millennium Development Goals, achieve an AIDS-Free Generation, support family planning goals, and end preventable child and maternal deaths.

 

The PEPFAR Medical Education Partnership Initiative (MEPI) is a US government initiative supporting 13 medical schools in 12 African countries to increase the capacity & quality of medical education, improve retention of graduates, and promote regionally relevant & locally-led research. Given high graduate outmigration rates, MEPI-funded schools are investing heavily in strategies to retain graduates where they are most needed. Enabling schools with a platform to connect with alumni allows them to gauge the strategies’ effectiveness. In collaboration with the MEPI Physician Tracking Technical Working Group (TWG), the USAID-funded CapacityPlus project, and the MEPI Coordinating Center support nine country-led initiatives to implement graduate tracking at 18 medical education institutions. 

 

In 2013, a participatory approach involving medical professional councils and the MEPI TWG identified the functionality and attributes needed to meet graduate tracking objectives while ensuring interoperability with the open source iHRIS software systems used by professional councils and ministries of health. Schools can use and customize the resulting open source software system for free. 

 

In 2014, the MEPI Connect graduate tracking software was reviewed, tested, and finalized for customization by participating schools. Several MEPI institutions are now customizing, installing, and deploying the software: 

 

  • Kilimanjaro Christian Medical University CollegeMoshi, Tanzania, is supporting a focal person dedicated to graduate tracking activities and career counseling. KCMUCo is collecting almuni data to assess and improve institutional quality; monitor graduates’ employment outcomes; inform curriculum review and mentorship for current students; and encourage graduate participation in research and other academic activities. An expected outcome is to increase graduates’ engagement in research, training, and service provision, thereby strengthening the institution and increasing the number of high-quality health workers serving the population. In July 2014, KCMUCo piloted the MEPI Connect software. By uploading data from an actual medical school, the pilot served as a proof of concept to demonstrate that the platform and modules are flexible enough for customization.

  • Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology School of Medical SciencesKumasi, Ghana, has incorporated the tracking software into their existing online alumni network so that graduates can access and update data using “self-service” forms. At the school’s oath ceremony in August 2014, the two most recent graduating classes (2013 and 2014) completed surveys to be included in the system, with additional cohorts to follow. Hardcopy questionnaires extracted from the software have been distributed to other cohorts to enhance data collection and entry.

 

  • Addis Ababa UniversityEthiopia is coordinating with the Federal Ministry of Health to ensure that their tracking system data can be easily exchanged with the ministry to assist in placement and licensure of practicing physicians. Added variables consider factors that play a role in migration, such as siblings living abroad. MEPI Connect also will facilitate more effective identification and recruitment of new faculty members to meet growing student demand resulting from rapid expansion of medical school enrollment. 

 

This case study relates to:

Case study addresses:

Quality: 
Yes
Quantity: 
Yes
Relevance: 
Yes
Sustainability: 
Yes

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Additonal notes on this project

The interoperable open source software is being deployed in nine MEPI countries, including Tanzania, Ghana, and Ethiopia.

An online community of open source developers, implementers, and users provide technical support and exchange best practices for software improvements and sustainability.

The MEPI Connect graduate tracking system demonstrates great promise as a tool to build lasting connections between health workers and the tertiary institutions that are their “educational home”, measure program impact, and reinforce the values to serve the population and save lives.