A scheme to allow health professionals in developing countries access to the best specialist expertise could be a reality within two years.
More than 50 leading medical schools from 16 countries are enthusiastic about Scottish-led plans for a virtual international medical school, Ivimeds, which could accept its first students by mid-2004. The schools would pool their specialist knowledge and offer it to students in developing countries through e-learning.
The institutions, which include Harvard Medical International, the Mayo Clinic Medical School, the German Association for Medical Education, and the National University of Mexico, are being asked to commit an initial £5,000 to the scheme, and a further £20,000 by October.
A minimum of 20 institutions are expected to become core participants, developing a detailed business plan over the next year.
The medical educators attending the initial meeting agreed that Ivimeds should be a not-for-profit partnership. Development costs would be shared between the schools, governments, health systems and charitable organisations. Income would be shared equitably in line with contributions made.
Ronald Harden, director of Dundee University's Centre for Medical Education, and principal initiator of the scheme with Ian Hart of Ottawa University, said: "Ivimeds is an idea whose time has come.
"There is absolutely no doubt it has captured the imagination of leading medical schools. All can see its potential in delivering the best and most flexible medical education the world has to offer in a way that also allows developing countries and communities more chance of retaining trained health professionals."