FOR the past 55 years, the Cebu Institute of Medicine (CIM) has produced 160 topnotchers. Eleven bested all other aspiring physicians in the country.
The latest addition to its streak of success are Martin Angelo Zanoria and Aaron Lemuel Ong, who ranked second and seventh, respectively, in the 2018 September Physician Licensure Examination.
How does CIM manage to keep its seat among the top medical schools in the Philippines?
Even though it dominated the top 10 list in 1974, CIM saw the need to improve its method of teaching.
“The school was very traditional in the beginning and it was very difficult to convince our faculty of the change at that time. But the Commission on Higher Education encouraged us to look into problem-based learning (PBL),” Dr. Thelma Fernandez, former dean and now member of the board of trustees, told SunStar Cebu.
The Association of the Philippines Medical Colleges introduced PBL to faculty members as an educational strategy in the early ‘90s.
The PBL approach was recommended because it promotes self-direct learning. It also fosters critical thinking and better interpersonal relationship in students, which are considered vital in medical practice.
Fernandez said it was Dr. Josefina Poblete, the dean for the past 25 years, that “laid the ground” for PBL in CIM.
In 1995, the faculty started to undergo several workshops to understand and embrace the process of PBL.
Six years later, CIM began to fully implement the PBL approach, making it the only school in the country to adopt this curriculum.
With the PBL, Fernandez said, lectures are minimal with each instructor handling a maximum of only 12 students per class.
She said this is because they want the students to learn individually and correlate their discussions with each other.
The small group discussions were designed to promote proactive thinking and encourage holistic learning through sharing.
“PBL is a very good method. It helps us fulfill a culture of excellence, and stay true to the vision and mission of the school to produce physicians with a heart,” Fernandez said.
Since embracing the PBL methodology, CIM has maintained a passing rate of not lower than 97 percent.
But despite producing numerous topnotchers, Fernandez said they do not give incentives to those who top exams because they want to keep their students grounded.
“It’s not in our culture. All placers are scholars, so they’re not paying for their tuition,” she added.
Another factor attributed to the school’s prestige are its facilities and quality of faculty members.
Around 175, or 90 percent, of the 194 members of the faculty graduated from CIM and have grown with the school’s culture and thrust, Fernandez said.
Students, on the other hand, have to undergo a tedious screening process which takes up to two months.
The school, though, only accepts 200 out of 500 applicants for every school year.
Of the 200 that pass the screening process, 20 or 10 percent are foreign students.