How the WFME Impacts the Acceptance of Medical Degrees in the USA

Updated on 08/07/2024 in
Medical students from USA

From 2024 onwards, all international students who want to become a doctor in the USA must graduate from a medical school that is accredited by a WFME-recognised accreditation agency.

Although this statement may seem confusing at first, we’re here to show you that it’s much simpler than it seems. In this blog, we’ll give you a complete rundown of what the World Federation for Medical Education (WFME) is, its role in medical education and how to make sure that your medical degree is accepted and recognised in the US.

Here are the key takeaways from this blog:

  • The WFME is the main international organisation responsible for ensuring high-quality medical education across the world.
  • The ECFMG is a US organisation that is responsible for certifying international medical graduates (IMGs).
  • The ECFMG is a co-opted member of the WFME. 
  • IMGs who wish to become doctors in the US must make sure that their medical school has the proper accreditation.
  • This won’t affect current students as long as they meet ECFMG certification requirements.

What is the WFME?

The WFME was established in 1972 in Copenhagen, Denmark, in collaboration with the World Health Organisation (WHO), the World Medical Association (WMA), associate members and medical schools worldwide. 

Its main mission is to improve the quality of medical education across the world through global standards but with respect to national needs. The WFME achieves this goal by:

  • Developing comprehensive global standards for medical education.
  • Promoting accreditation and quality assurance in medical education.
  • Supporting the continuous professional development of medical educators.
  • Encouraging research and innovation in medical education.
  • Advocating for policies that enhance medical education and healthcare delivery.

The WFME has 3 separate International Task Forces, each of which is dedicated to one of the phases of medical education: basic, postgraduate, and continuing medical education (a.k.a. professional development of medical doctors).

Additionally, the WFME manages the World Directory of Medical Schools (WDOMS) with the assistance of the Foundation for Advancement of International Medical Education and Research (FAIMER). 

It is important to note that the WFME does not directly accredit medical schools, instead it recognises and ensures the quality of accrediting agencies that meet their requirements. These agencies are then responsible for accrediting medical schools in their respective regions and making sure that they meet global standards of medical education.

WFME collaborates with the following 6 regional offices to promote standards and quality in medical education.

  • The Association for Medical Education in Europe (AMEE)
  • Association for Medical Education in the Eastern Mediterranean (AMEEWR)
  • Association for Medical Education in Western Pacific Region (AMEWPR)
  • The AMSAssociation of Medical Schools in Africa (AMSA)
  • The Pan American Federation of Associations of Medical Schools (PAFAMS)
  • South-East Asian Regional Association for Medical Education (SEARAME)

WFME’s Role in the USA

The WFME officially welcomed the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG) as a co-opted member in 2007. The ECFMG is a US organisation that is responsible for certifying the qualifications of International Medical Graduates (IMGs) who want to join residency or fellowship programmes in the US. 

In general, in order to become a doctor in the US, IMGs need to get their ECFMG certification first. Here are the steps that students need to take in order to get certified:

  • Graduate from an ECFMG-approved medical school or from a university that has been accredited by a WFME-recognised accrediting body.
  • Apply for residency programmes that are accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME).
  • Take the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE).
  • Obtain an unrestricted licence to practise medicine in the United States.

ECFMG or WFME-recognition has become an integral requirement for international medical graduates who want to become doctors in the US. This policy was introduced to ensure that medical graduates coming into the country meet internationally accepted educational standards.

How to Choose the Right Medical School

Did you catch the most important bit? Graduates must ensure their medical schools have the appropriate accreditation from now on.

This may seem confusing, and we completely agree. As a team of international doctors and dentists, we’ve been there, and we know how difficult it can be to find a suitable medical school. This is exactly why we created Medlink Students: to help students just like you.

That’s why we offer free consultations with our academic advisors, who will listen to your goals and circumstances and will provide expert guidance on finding the perfect medical school. We work with 100+ of the best universities in Europe and the Caribbean, which offer high-quality accredited medical education in English. Many of these med schools even offer USMLE-preparatory courses as part of the curriculum to completely prepare students for success in the US.

Sign up for your free consultation and take advantage of our experience and expertise to kickstart your medical education.

What Does this Mean for Current Students?

If you’re a current student, you might be worried that your medical school does not have appropriate accreditation and that you can’t become a doctor in the US. However, there’s no need to worry.

The ECFMG has stated (in the Q&A) that you will still be able to take on the USMLE and sign up for a residency programme as long as you meet the current ECFMG certification requirements.

Conclusion

Moving towards global standards for medical education is the best way to ensure that the next generation of doctors is truly ready to join the workforce. With WFME and ECFMG-recognition becoming essential, international students have a much clearer path to becoming a medical professional in the US.

All it takes is persistence and choosing the right medical school.

Q&A

What is the WFME?

The World Federation for Medical Education (WFME) is an international organisation established in 1972 to improve the quality of medical education globally through the development of comprehensive standards, promoting accreditation, and supporting professional development.

What is the ECFMG?

The Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG) is a US organisation that certifies the qualifications of international medical graduates (IMGs) who wish to join US residency or fellowship programmes.

What steps must IMGs follow to get ECFMG certification?

IMGs need to graduate from a WFME or ECFMG-approved medical school, apply for ACGME-accredited residency programmes, pass the USMLE exams, and obtain an unrestricted licence to practise medicine in the USA.

Does the WFME directly accredit medical schools?

No, WFME does not directly accredit medical schools. Instead, it recognises accrediting agencies that meet its standards, which then accredit medical schools in their respective regions.

What happens if my medical school loses its WFME-recognised accreditation after I graduate?

If your school loses its WFME-recognised accreditation after you graduate, it should not affect your eligibility for ECFMG certification as long as the school was accredited at the time of your graduation.

Can I apply for ECFMG certification if my medical school is in the process of gaining WFME-recognised accreditation?

You can apply for ECFMG certification once your medical school receives the accreditation. If the school is still in the process, you may need to wait until accreditation is granted.

How can I make sure that I choose the right medical school?

Medlink Students offers free consultations with our expert academic advisors to help students find accredited medical schools, many of which offer USMLE-preparatory courses, ensuring students are well-prepared for a medical career in the US.

Article written by Dr Sam El Mais
Dr Sam El Mais, MD, MSc, BSc, graduated from a renowned medical school in Romania in 2019. He uses his professional knowledge and personal experience to guide students on crucial aspects such as university selection, admissions processes, and cultural adjustments.
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