07 June 2024 | Story André Damons | Photo Supplied
Health Sciences
Dr Sung-Hoon Kim is an alumnus from the UFS Faculty of Health Sciences who took it upon himself to get the university registered as an official approved foreign university in the Republic of Korea.

The University of the Free State (UFS) is proud to announce the accreditation of its medical programme by the Republic of Korea. This highlights the standards and quality of the UFS training in the international arena.

The UFS benchmarks itself against both local and international institutions and this affirms its place as one of the top-tier medical schools in the world. An alumnus from the UFS succeeded in getting the university officially approved as a recognised foreign medical university in Republic of Korea. His administrative efforts finally paid off in May this year, when the UFS joined the list of the few prestigious South African as well as international universities to be granted this status.

Dr Sung-Hoon Kim, who graduated from the UFS Faculty of Health Sciences in 2018 as a medical doctor (MBChB degree), took it upon himself to get the university registered as an officially approved foreign university in Korea. This means UFS medical school graduates (after becoming licensed as independent medical practitioners by the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) can apply to write the entrance and licensing examination of the Medical Board in the Republic of Korea. This is an exclusive privilege that is allowed only to medical graduates from universities that have been thoroughly reviewed and approved by the Minister of Health and the panel of Medical Professors at the Korea Health Personnel Licensing Examination Institute.

“The School of Clinical Medicine is proud of this achievement. It affirms the high quality of our teaching and training and demonstrates that the UFS remains on par with international standards,” commented the head of the school, Prof Nicholas Pearce.

Process started

According to Dr Kim, this colossal task began while he was still a student. The idea of getting his university approved and recognised by Korea’s Ministry of Health and Welfare to qualify to write the Medical Board examination in Korea was appealing to him.

“I investigated the process and left it at the back of my mind until after graduation because it seemed to be such a daunting project. A significant portion of the work had been already done during my time at medical school, as I had started to collect some of the application forms, university documents and figures which were all but scattered, difficult to attain and simply unavailable to me in a format that could be easily used on the application,” says Dr Kim.

He explains the process involved browsing and inquiring online and phoning the Korea Health Personnel Licensing Examination Institute ('Kuksiwon') to obtain the application forms and criteria of accreditation / approval by the Ministry of Health and Welfare. The criteria state that the university's programme had to be of at least an equally comparable standard and duration to that of a medical school in South Korea. This had to be supported by numerous official documents and statistical figures from the university and School of Clinical Medicine.

Mammoth task

Dr Kim also had to give them the official letter stating the rationale of a five-year programme instead of the six years standard.

“I had to compile a prospectus including the admissions policy, general rule book, the faculty prospectus and guide, the syllabus and curriculum of the entire programme (which is compiled at UFS as documents titled 'Phase Guide'), statistical figures regarding the lecture halls, staffing, students, and scale of infrastructure of hospitals and labs for training clinical and practical skills, clinical hours, the policy regarding foreign national students.

“I was requested to summarise and find the exact pages of and outline the location of the specific paragraphs required from each document, some of which were dozens to hundreds of pages long. They also contacted the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) to confirm the various registration policies of foreign nationals and regarding board examinations,” explains Dr Kim.

His medical degree, official transcripts, registration as an independent practitioner all needed to be urgently apostilled at the High Court because he needed to submit all physical copies with the application by hand, in person, in Korea.

Opening doors

He had to fly to Korea to physically hand in a small pile of well-organised papers arranged perfectly according to the criteria.

According to Dr Kim, this opens doors for current and future graduates of the UFS School of Clinical Medicine. I believe this means that there will be new possibilities of transferability and collaboration in terms of health-care personnel, systems, and support.

“With this and the recent boost of international relations between Republic of Korea and Republic of South Africa, I believe medical students and professionals will in the near future be able to do visiting clerkships, rotations and fellowships, a chance to share and broaden the range of medical knowledge, practical skills and research projects between the apex of Asian health care and the pinnacle of African medical practice,” says Dr Kim.

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